Emily Dickinson famously defined a poem as such when she felt “as if the top of my head were taken off.”

Notice that one of history’s most popular Caucasian American women poets did not reference others’ reactions in her definition. Instead, she actually referenced her own somatic experience! This was the 1800s, women!

In a world that chronically requires us to validate our ideas, art and worth by external credentials, it can be challenging to feel celebratory in our writing due to the simple fact that it resonates for us.

And yet we must develop a confidence in our own writing voices if we are to enjoy our process and the results. And paradoxically, it’s only by being true to ourselves that we can authentically offer new and divergent art to the world.

We do this by working on our self-value: by establishing a sense of self that does not require the validation of others. It’s a process that we are each capable of, and it is lifelong.

We do this by writing pieces that we know we’ll never share with anyone but that provide us with opportunities to hone our craft and hear ourselves on the page. 

We also do this by selectively sharing our work with people who will treat it like an infant to be treasured for its unique beauty and vulnerability. 

Traditional publishers’ websites often ask writers to reflect the similarities between their manuscripts and the work of the authors they publish, to ensure the submitting writer’s work fits with the writing of other authors in their collections. 

While there’s certainly a logic to this, I like to imagine a world that primarily places merit on books that are wildly different from what has come before, where the criteria for publication are variety, authenticity and the capacity to move the writer and reader beyond measure. Like Emily said. 

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