who gave you permission?

I did some personal writing today but I thought I’d share this little snip with you all. Natalie Goldberg asks us this–who gave you permission to be a writer? Here is one small moment of my answer to that question.

My legs push down on the pedals of my bike as I speed along a root-ridden trail that curves through the pines. A cloud of gnats hover head-height in the middle of the trail ahead of me, they glow golden with the afternoon light. I hold my breath and close my eyes tight as I whoosh through them. Their cloud doesn’t disperse, just changes shapes.

It is my second year in south Georgia. It is August.

The older students stand in a circle by the Coke machine, laughing loudly and smoking cigarettes. It’s the second week of classes and I don’t know their names yet, but I do know that half of them are published writers, and the other half easily could be if they gave a damn. To me, they are all brilliant.

I lock up my bike and walk toward the classroom door, holding my notebook against my chest.

Hey! Georgie, right? You’re the girl from CaliforniaI hear someone say. I stop, look back at them and they’re all looking at me–guess I’m the only Georgie around after all. I slowly walk over to their circle, they rearrange to make room.

Yeah, I’m Georgie. That’s all I find myself able to say.

One of the seniors puts his arm around me. His cigarette comes close to my unruly, wind-blown hair so he reaches across me and switches it to his other hand.

This girl right here y’all, this girl is a poet. His smile is obscured because his mouth tightens on the cigarette as he takes a long drag.

Is that so? one of the girls asks, nodding and wide eyes. She’s just a junior but she’s already had a few short stories published locally.

Oh, me? No. I give a nervous laugh and shake my head. No, no I’m not, I wouldn’t even call myself a writ–

The senior waves his hand to quiet me, the smoldering end of his cigarette glows brighter as air courses through the tobacco. He leans forward, toward the middle of the circle, and interrupts me.

She read one of her free writes out loud in class the other day. ‘Course she had to be forced to read the damn thing, she never volunteers. But you better believe it, she started reading and we were all lookin’ round at each other with these eyes like, yep, that right there is a poet. 

He throws the last of his cigarette on the ground as he says the last words. The gesture made it known that the conversation was over, like there was no more reason to discuss this, no more time to waste on something that was so obvious and true. And there sure as hell wasn’t any room for me to keep on denying it.

He presses his converse sneaker into the ground, pinning the cigarette against the cement.

Well alright then, one of the other girls says. It’s 5, y’all. Lets go in. They put out their cigarettes, and we walk into the classroom together. 

Who gave you permission to be what you are? What are you not being because no one has given you permission yet? Have you ever become something without permission from anyone else? Is that even possible? Permission is such an interesting part of being a human. The story is always a good one.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cindy Abel
    Jan 23, 2014 @ 09:45:47

    Georgie, I can smell the smoke and feel it on my face after reading this incredible story! Great message, great writing!! Love



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