“Take Up your Bed and Walk:” An AROHO Feature with Bridget Birdsall, Gift of Freedom Finalist
After years of plugging away at my writing, attending countless workshops and earning an MFA, I had filled hundreds of pages, with hundreds of words, that never managed to journey any farther than the filing cabinet in my closet. So, when a friend told me about the Gift of Freedom Award, which of course sounded too good to be true, I decided to take a chance and put my words out into the world.
This was not an easy decision; nor was it an easy task. Organizing myself has never come naturally. In addition, I struggle with dyslexia, which brick by brick had built an immense wall of fear around my brain. Scrawled on this wall were the words: Never good enough.
Like so many women I have known, I had become conditioned to holding myself back, to putting myself down, to obeying those unwritten societal rules that apply disproportionately to women. The proverbial thumb did not have to worry about keeping me in my place-I had learned to do it myself.
An ancient Buddhist saying states: “The obstacle is the path.” Throughout the application process I encountered a multitude of obstacles, however, I did not give up. Having come out of the closet years ago as a lesbian, I decided it was now time for my writing to come out of the closet, too!
The first thing I wrote was a letter asking for the support of my family and friends. Encouragement poured in-in so many unexpected and wonderful ways I couldn’t fit them all in this letter. Yet, it wasn’t until after I sealed the envelope that I began to understand how the obstacles I had feared had become my greatest teachers.
In the application process, as in life, obstacles give us something to lean against- until we can find our way. Finding the time, finding the right words, putting the words in some sensible order, organizing the papers, digging up buried tax returns, resisting the urge to throw a slow-processing computer out the window, and asking for the necessary editorial help, all created a liberating structure which birthed the highest quality work I had produced to date. Sure, it may not have been perfect, and perhaps it would not win, but even I could see-it had a chance.
A chance! Statistics prove that women not only win fewer awards, they tend to get fewer chances and that is what this Gift is all about. A chance. So, my gentle women-writer friends, please do not allow yourselves to become discouraged, do not give up before you’ve even begun, seize this opportunity. Whether you win the big pot or not, you may find yourself, like I have, using these essays and the discipline they inspire, as the foundational fodder for future writing.
Today, I write these words to you as I look out over the sunlit lawn of Edenfred, a Gregorian Mansion, where I recently won an Artistic Fellowship. My first two novels are currently under review with a reputable publisher and I am completing a third. I hired a professional organizer to help me sort through the stories still hidden away in my closet, and I have developed a website to showcase my visual as well as my written art. Every day I write for at least one hour, if life gets in the way or I miss a day, I make up that time by the end of the week. The only catalyst I can come up with for this change in my writing-life is the chance I was given and the chance I took.
They say when we believe in ourselves the universe will follow. It takes courage to pick up our pens and write. This poem (below) was part of my Gift of Freedom application. It found its inspiration from a Virginia Woolf quote supplied by AROHO.
Two thumbs up to YOU for taking this chance!
Take Up Your Bed and Walk
Pick up your pen and write
Become a legend in your own mind
Is where all good and wondrous
For the mind is simply a shadow
Of the soul
And to know
Really know, one’s soul
Is a gift
Often lifetimes in the making
And it takes time
To chip away the glacial rocks
Of our own self-created impediments
We must not stray from our task
The hour is at hand
We must take up our beds and walk
We must pick up our pens and write
For it is never to late to live the
Life you’ve imagined
And the secret my friend
Is-there is NONE
We are all in the same league
Our spirits and our bodies are
Only the grist of this
Which is beyond the Great Beyond
Too large for our small minds to grasp
Unless, or maybe only perhaps,
Until we find the courage
To take up our beds and walk
To pick up our pens and write
To become-a legend in our own mind.
Bridget Birdsall is a writer, teacher, and visual artist. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. In 2009, she was a finalist for AROHO’s Gift of Freedom Award. Her YA novel “August Atlas” received an honorable mention in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writer’s Institute First Page Contest and her recently published novel “Ordinary Angels” took first place. (To order:www.createspace.com/3487681) Her visual art and her prize-winning short story “Miracle on Monkey Mountain” can be viewed www.bridgetbirdsall.com. Bridget currently teaches in the Young Playwrights Program at several Madison-area high schools. She has offered workshops and taught courses in creative writing, poetry, business writing and literature at Edgewood College and Madison College. In addition to teaching, Bridget is a practitioner of the intuitive arts and a member of Madison’s Soul Awareness Healing Collective. She resides in Madison, Wisconsin.