Author, poet, actor, singer, activist, and inspiration Maya Angelou told Oprah Winfrey in an interview that the greatest gift you can give yourself is forgiveness. Angelou should know. She was raped at age 7 by her mother’s boyfriend and suffered greatly in later life. But in this interview, at her current age of 85, she urges forgiveness, pointing out how it spurs you to feel “lighter” and gives you almost magical energy for other, more productive pursuits (http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/super-soul-sunday-blog.html?filter_tag=Dr.%20Maya%20Angelou).
Forgiveness. Maybe we think it’s too soft, too sissy-like, as if by forgiving we excuse, accept, condone. But we don’t have to like or approve of the actions we’re forgiving, only forgive the doer for doing them.
Sometimes, when my writing is dry, and I feel bottled up, I realize I’m nursing bitterness and resentment against those I’m sure have done me wrong. Out of desperation (and to write anything), I started a list and was shocked to see how many people I haven’t forgiven. I hope this list of unforgivens helps you ferret out your own.
- Forgive your parents for not encouraging you enough: “What the hell are you
going to do with a degree in Creative Writing?”
- Forgive your parents for encouraging you too much: “She’s a little genius!
Look at that story—should be in The New Yorker!”
- Forgive your peers/classmates for more success much earlier than you:
“Name, Class of ____, just published his first novel to rave reviews in Publishers Weekly and it’s already a bestseller on Amazon.”
- Forgive the agents who send you form rejection letters: “Dear Writer . . . .”
- Forgive the agent who sends you a rousing letter of response, asks for your
manuscript, and then vanishes into the vortex of wordlessness.
- Forgive the agent who “loves” your work, takes you on, and then sends you a
ten-page single-spaced list of her own: “If you just cut Chapters 4-6 and put Chapter 10 in the beginning, flesh out the two tertiary characters, and make your protagonist a transgender football player with four adopted children . . . .”
- Forgive the editors who send you form rejection letters: “Dear Writer . . . .”
- Forgive the editors who send none, ever.
- Forgive the editors who accept a piece but pay you nothing: “Look at all the
great publicity you’ll get.”
- Forgive the editors who pay you a pittance, approximately $.03 per hour for
your squeezed-out and sweaty-fingered production.
- Forgive your relatives for their hollow congratulations on your successes.
“Great, Amy! So how much are they paying you? Do you get dental?”
- Forgive your colleagues for their hollow congratulations on your successes.
“Great, Amy! I just had an essay accepted in the Literary Review of Fabulous New Writers and a short story in the distinguished literary magazine Glower Train.”
- Bless your honest colleagues for their comments on your successes. One
wrote me, “I’m envious!”
- Forgive yourself for ignoring or rejecting other aspects of life. “So sorry I can’t
come to the cocktail party/bowling playoffs/anniversary picnic [cough cough]. I feel a cold coming on.” And you sneak off to the keyboard or curl up in the basement with your notebook.
- Forgive yourself for selfishness in wanting to write above almost all else.
- Forgive yourself for not starting to write early enough, not writing enough now,
not revising enough, not sending out enough, not succeeding enough.
- Forgive yourself finally—every day, night, hour, minute. And go to it!
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, having published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets. Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery.” Discussions appear on Goodreads: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series, Her webinar on the book of June 26, 2013, can be heard and seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?V=95EeqllONIQ.