Post-Collegeville: am I a writer?

So Collegeville happened, and it was wonderful–one of the richest experiences of my life. I don’t have time to get into all of that at the moment, but one of the decisions I made at Collegeville was to go ahead and go public with this blog, which has been a private writing lab for me for a couple of years. I still haven’t decided whether to go ahead and publish all of the posts that I’ve written in that time, and frankly, some should probably never see the light of day. But when I went to the blog today to act on that decision, I realized that several months ago I had already posted something publicly. (The mind is going, to be sure, but in my defense, it’s been a whirlwind summer.)

That brief article was posted in early April, a short time after I received my invitation to Collegeville, and a short time before I forgot all about having posted it, apparently. At the time we were in the thick of preparations for our trip to Spain to walk the Camino Inglés, one of the shorter routes of the Camino de Santiago, and that trip happened in early May. (More about that another time.)

Re-reading that initial post immediately brought to mind the first evening group discussion we had with our writing coach, Michael N. MacGregor, Our main topic of discussion was the very thing I had posted about in April. (Even that did not refresh my memory of having written it.)

I went to Collegeville with a bit of trepidation, because I had done just a tiny bit of Google-stalking of my Collegeville group-mates, and came away somewhat intimidated by their accomplishments and brilliance. I was pretty much convinced that I would probably be the only person who still struggled with the question of validity as a writer–several of them had already published books, and some of them had done it more than once.

But in the first group discussion of our week together, I learned that I was not alone, and that even some of those who had written and published books or articles in national magazines or other venues still wrestled with the question, “Am I a writer?” Guided by our coach, we explored our hesitance to self-identify as writers and discovered that (a) we were not alone in this, and (b) the answer was obvious.

After we had kicked the topic around for a bit, one of my colleagues commented that she had read or heard somewhere that the only people who ever ask this question are writers.

Boom. I am a writer.

I’ll undoubtedly share more Collegeville stories and reflections later.

Collegeville

I recently received an invitation to participate in a Collegeville Institute writing workshop. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I heard about Collegeville in a tweet by D.L. Mayfield, a Collegeville alum and the author of a wonderful book, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith. It is also something that I had all but concluded would never happen, after two previous, unsuccessful applications. I nearly abandoned a third try, then applied anyway, figuring that a third rejected application would be a sure sign that I should let it go and move on.

When the invitation email arrived, I stared at my computer screen in disbelief for a couple of minutes, eyes blinking, mouth literally agape, brain straining to convince myself I wasn’t imagining this, that I hadn’t somehow misread or misunderstood the message. After re-reading it at least four or five times, I quickly sent my reply, accepting the invitation gladly, and gratefully. I am so looking forward to traveling to Minnesota in early August of this year to spend a week with eleven other workshop participants and a writing coach.

Though I am familiar with the workshop description, I really don’t know what to expect. My wife, ever the more practical one of us, suggested that I Google past participants from past Collegeville workshops–some of their names are listed from previous years, and there are several samples of workshop alumni writing linked on the Collegeville Web site. After reading several articles by different alumni and learning a bit more about some of them and their work, my initial, exuberant, “they liked me!” reaction to this invitation began to give way to “I might be in over my head.”

In the days since I accepted the invitation, I have oscillated between “I can do this,” to “what was I thinking?” but I am hopeful that some coherent thoughts will come together, and that when I finally arrive at the workshop venue, there will be ideas, words, sentences, and paragraphs queued up in my brain, just waiting to be turned into lines of engaging, readable prose.

I am hopeful, but I’ve been dogged for years with feelings of inferiority and a lack of confidence in my abilities–perhaps a simple case of the “imposter syndrome.” I know I should not trust these feelings, but as they continue to loiter in my head, I have decided I need to do something that might help to drive them off.

Thus, this blog has come to be. It is not my first, nor my only extant blog, but it is the one that I intend to use as a writing laboratory. I hope it is interesting to someone besides me. I hope that perhaps it might be helpful in some way to someone else. Neither But the bottom line for me is this: I hope it will be a venue through which I am finally able to convince myself that the following statement is true: I am a writer.