In July of 2012 I attended my first Antioch Writers’ Workshop. I was fortunate enough to receive their Betty Crumrine Scholarship, a scholarship that was created for a single parent “committed to writing and who could not otherwise attend the workshop.”
See, I have wanted to attend the Writers’ Workshop for years. But I wear many hats. I am a mom. An ex-wife. A hairstylist. An employee. A girlfriend. A sister. A daughter. A homeowner. And so on…
I am also a writer.
I knew if I received all or even part of the scholarship I could financially justify this dream. I made arrangements for both my boys to be with family while I was gone. I booked my room in Yellow Springs. I wrote an essay and attached the first three chapters of my book. I crossed my fingers and waited.
I also put aside my self- deprecating belief that although I write, I’m hardly a writer.
Just weeks before the Workshop was to begin, I received this in my inbox: “It’s my honor and delight, on behalf of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop scholarship committee, to inform you that you have been selected as the Second Place Betty Crumrine Scholarship winner.”
No, Antioch, it was an honor and delight to have you believe in me.
When I packed my bags, my notepads, manuscript and journals took up the bulk of my suitcase. I left all but one very special hat behind.
We all wear several hats. We must. They are essential to our whole being, essential to a rich and diverse human experience. I am thankful for each and every one of mine. But to set aside all these various hats, in their unique shapes and forms, and only wear one for an entire week was quite simply magical. No one expected anything else from me but to write, and write, and write some more. I had never experienced that before. It’s so easy, too easy, to get lost under your hats. To do the laundry and scrub the floors instead of writing. To tell yourself you’ll remember that line in the morning instead of writing it down right now. To pass out after a long day at work instead of writing a little. To put writing on the backburner, get to it when you have the time...
The fabled time. The elusive bitch. When you wear many hats, you chase her. When one of the hats you wear is Writer, she’s not always willing to play when you are ready.
One thing Antioch gave me was that time. To spend a week sans laundry, sans cooking… to only wear one hat all day, every day. What a gift. I slept with my notebooks and journals around me. I listened to and learned from each and every attendant and instructor that week. Some were well known authors and poets, but most of the writers there were just like me – unknown writers who play with words and follow their lead. Despite our differences and varying levels of “success”, all of us write because we have to. There is no choice. To quote Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Creative people are needy. We need support. We seek inspiration and community, a safe place. A challenge. Peers. Even when we go inside ourselves and disappear into our craft, we still need and long for these things. I’m ok to admit this need.
The Antioch Writers Workshop was like a giant cradle, holding and supporting delicate, sensitive people and their creative energy. For one week I was raw, vulnerable, yet safe. What a good feeling.
I cried the entire drive home. I didn’t cry because I didn’t want to leave. Quite the opposite. I cried for all that I was bringing home with me. I had so much energy. I was ready to go home, unpack my bags and change my hats as need be. Hug my children and see my friends and family. And, of course, to keep writing.