A Favorite Quote

“Henceforth I ask not good fortune. I myself am good fortune.”

Walt Whitman

I’m struck by the notion that we represent our own good fortune. Writers often consider that our fortunes lie in the hands of others. Agents. Editors. Various publicists, booksellers and librarians. Readers who shell out good money for our stories. Of course, every individual involved in the publication of a work is important to the process, and disregarding any particular person isn’t my point in today’s post.

What I’d like us to consider is that without following the initial inspiration of our stories, working through those late night editing sessions, mailing endless query letters — our good fortune would certainly never occur in the first place.

If we only dream, then sadly, we’re just dreamers.

Take, for example, Walt Whitman, who is considered one of the most influential in America’s canon. He knew from an early age the benefit of creating one’s own path. Born to a less-than-wealthy family and educated to only the age of eleven, Whitman’s childhood was generally restless and unhappy. Yet, this gifted and often controversial figure’s most famous work, Leaves of Grass,was originally self-published and without his name as its author. An early review called the work, “trashy, profane and obscene,” and referred to the unknown author as “a pretentious ass.” (Ah, wouldn’t we all love to have such reviews? Nowadays, controversy sells!) Whitman created his own good fortune by self-publishing what has become one of America’s most note-worthy works of American poetry.

Whitman began writing Leaves of Grass in 1850 and continued to revise and edit the book through numerous publications until his death. During his final year, he wrote, “L. of G. at last complete—after 33 y’rs of hacking at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old.”

May we all find our inner Walt today. May we not hand over our good fortune to the whims of others, but rather, may we be brave in our work, give ourselves plenty of grace and mercy as we stumble here and there … but mostly, may we write today as if Mssr. Whitman is looking over our shoulder and urging us to write, write, write!

My best to writers everywhere as we each strive to be our own good fortune.

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