Inhabiting the authority archetype

Sage CohenProductive writing4 Comments

This week, I was pretty much knocked off my feet when I peeled back the packaging from my contributor’s copy of Poet’s Market 2012 and found my own name–that oddly familiar and now, suddenly somewhat alien collection of letters–looking back at me from the cover. Poet’s Market has been my constant companion for the past 20 years, accompanying my lifelong ache to sculpt experience in words–and then, gasp, send those words out into the world. I am incredibly honored and humbled to be appearing inside and outside of this important tome.

Then, as if there could possibly be a higher high, suddenly there was: a friend asked, ahem, was I planning to celebrate also being on the cover of Writer’s Market 2012? I’m not sure how I managed this, but I had somehow completely missed seeing my name right there, front and center, on the contributor’s copy of Writer’s Market 2012 received a week or two earlier. An embarrassment of riches. A blind spot for success.

All day, I’ve been trying to find the words for what it feels like to contribute to publications that have shaped my writing life. And then see my name on the cover. My. Name. The closest life experience that mirrors the feeling is when I sat in the pediatrician’s office with my week-old son in my arms and my mother at my side. I was filling out paperwork, and in the section where I was to fill in a name for “Mother” I kind of blanked, then turned to my mother to ask her what she thought that question meant — whose mother. She had always been “Mother” and now, we decided, it was time for my name in that field. (Such is the confusion cocktail of extreme sleep deprivation, pain medication post-C-section, and euphoria.) The transition from daughter to mother as lead archetype has been a profound one. And it seems as if inhabiting the authority archetype in my writing life has been even more complicated to comprehend and embody.

The truth is, I have authority ambivalence. And this has cost me friendships (with people counting on me to stay a student forever), money (on classes I no longer needed), opportunities, and a clear reflection of who I am and what I have to give. This one-two visibility “punch” has me thinking about how hard it is sometimes to practice what I preach: celebrating and sharing successes. So, here goes, folks, the full Monty of all I am celebrating in my writing life this month:

Read Just-Published Sage Advice

“Making the Most of the Money You Earn” by Sage Cohen in Writer’s Market 2012

“Why Poets Need Platforms — And How to Create One” by Sage Cohen in Poet’s Market 2012

“Grow Your Writing Life” and “Claiming Your North Star” by Sage Cohen in The Writer’s Guide to Creativity from Writer’s Digest Yearbook

“10 Ways to Harness Fear and Fuel Your Writing” by Sage Cohen in the September 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest

“We Who Are about To Breed: Sage Cohen” — an interview about motherhood and the writing life, with We Who Are About To Die

See Sage Read

Writers Reflect on 9/11 at Powell’s on Hawthorne on Sunday, September 11–featuring authors Tami Kent, Tom Spanbauer, Jennifer Lauck, and Sage Cohen.

Poetry reading at Annie Bloom’s Books: Kathleen Halme and Sage Cohen on Thursday, October 20.

Get the details here.

Now, I showed you mine — won’t you show me yours? Are you feeling a little shy about some good news in your writing life? You are hereby invited to toot your own horn right here. It’s good practice, and we’re all rooting for you.

Now, ask yourself if there could some realm of authority you have not yet been willing to inhabit — one that is pressing up against your window screen and breathing in on you at night? How would your life change if you accepted that mantle? We are so in the habit of focusing on our weaknesses, our rejections, our places that need work that often we overlook or take for granted our areas of strength. What if you were to make a sign right now and hang it over your desk / bed / window / fridge — that reads, “_____________ Expert,” such as “Punctuation Expert,” “Submission System Expert,” “Metaphor Expert.” Whatever you know you’re good at, name it, no matter how insignificant you might believe this strength to be. Then see how the weight of that crown feels on your head. The paradox is that your successes may be far more informative about your wobbly places than your so-called failures. The sooner you are willing to look your own authority in the eye, the greater the acceleration of your writing life.

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