A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them. That is, he does not draw on a reservoir, he engages in an activity.
– William Stafford
I won a third place prize for a poetry composition contest in 1993.
It was a local celebration of poetry at the public library in Twenty-nine Palms, CA.
The contest included both composition and reading.
I received a plaque, a pen, some stationary and five dollars.
I received public recognition for my effort and talent.
I was twenty-four years old and I had written these poems at some point in the previous year.
The title of the poems I were: Burned and Currents
I had read in public spaces before. I had received applause, and the accolades of my friends, of people who would be supportive of me no matter I wrote or did.
I had never won a contest or been applauded by a group of total strangers before.
It was heart-warming.
Seven years later, I successfully defended my Master’s thesis in a public setting.
There were about forty people in attendance and there were not quite enough chairs for everyone who came to the small classroom where the event had been scheduled to take place.
I was nervous when it began.
I opened with a prayer, one that I said everyday, because the prayer was so familiar to me
I did not think to write it down.
I called the audience to prayer, I issued the opening lines, and then I stumbled in my words, forgetting where the prayer was going.
My pause and hesitancy were perceptible by the audience.
A few seconds passed, and then a group of my students showed up, they were late, but seeing them filled me with confidence and gave me the opportunity to recover my bearing.
I was able to finish they prayer and continue.
The prayer I recited was this, a Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Patron Saint of Philosophy:
Grant O’ Merciful God
That We may Ardently Desire
And Perfectly Accomplish
What is Pleasing to You
For the Praise and Glory of Your Name
From there I proceeded to answer a battery of questions, first from my advisors and then from assembly.
When It was completed, I had satisfied the requirements for my Master’s Degree.
It was the culmination of several years of academic work.
There are some who do not see research and academic writing as creative endeavors, but they are wrong.
They both involve the public expression of creative impulses that originate in the privacy of the writer’s thoughts and feelings.
The forms of writing and expression may be different; poetry and academics, but neither of them originate in a vacuum, they emerge in dialog, from observation, after rumination, and a careful articulation of language. Both may include vetting, peer review, research, argument, both attempt to elucidate something, a reality just beyond our senses and common experience.
They are challenging.