NDJ:8 Irene Smith Landsman

Graduation Remarks, May 2010

It is indeed hard to believe it’s been three years already. As happens so often at this age and stage, the time has passed “faster than a weaver’s shuttle,” as my husband likes to say, quoting Job.

At the same time the experience in New Directions has changed my life and my self, in such deep and powerful ways that I feel we must have all been here together for decades.

I came to the program unsure if I could bring myself to engage in writing at all, or if, once engaged, I could produce anything that would make sense to me or anyone else. But I hoped somehow that New Directions might open up a path that I could follow, and that even if the destination were unknown, it would be a good path and lead to something interesting. And that happened.

Nine two-page essays, a dozen poems, and countless free-writes later, writing is part of my life in what threatens to be a permanent way. The unwieldy “long term project” that began at the Tabard Inn, went to Stowe and returned to the Tabard Inn has been hammered into a book proposal. Of course, we never know the fate of anything we write, but I do know that project would never, ever, have come into being without New Directions.

I am immensely grateful to everyone who has built the New Directions program and who keep it going. Their energy, generosity, and dedication have created a supportive, generative community.

As we come to endings, we think of beginnings. What I remember most about the beginning is not knowing what to expect. So I’ve looped back to the Fall of 2007 to provide, retrospectively, a brief overview. You could call it, “Everything you’ll ever need to know you will learn in New Directions.”

In the first year
It will be scarier than you could ever imagine to bring your fragile little writings and ask other people to read them.

It will get easier, incrementally. It will not get easy.

Other people here will not eat you alive. Usually.

The writing will be very hard at first.

Your essay will not be chosen, and you will mind. Your friend’s essay will be chosen, and it will be very good indeed. You love your friend and you love that essay and you still mind.

In the second year
It will not be as scary. It will still be a little scary.

You will realize you actually have friends at New Directions. People will remember you from before, and you will remember them. You will remember what they wrote, and often you will be able to remember their names.

You will be getting in trouble, because what will be starting to happen is that you find you cannot not write.

Your writing will seem to be getting a little bit better.

The writing will still be very hard. What the man said about sitting at the typewriter until drops of blood appear on your forehead will make sense.

Your essay will not be chosen, and you will mind. The essays that are chosen are very, very good. You still mind.

In the third year
It will not be scary anymore. Almost.

You will find that the wonderful, gifted, warm, generous, supportive people here have become friends you can’t imagine not having in your life.

Writing will still be hard, but now you are beginning to consider that you are, in fact, a writer.

As your three years come to an end, you will see you are just getting started.

Your essay will not be chosen. And you will mind.

It is the writing life, and you wouldn’t have missed it for anything