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Paperwhites

Ellen Santasiero | January 10, 2023

Over New Year’s I saw a pot of flowers—paperwhites—on my friend Chris’s dining room table. Even though they’re vile-smelling, every year when I see their fresh white petals, their tiny trumpets blaring orange-dusted anthers, I think, oh, I want to grow some of those this year, but I never do.


For me, it’s not a case of fatigue, as I imagine it is for comedian Tom Papa, who responds to the new year’s messages of you can do more! and you can be better! with Ummm. Isn’t this enough? It’s more that I don’t really want to grow paperwhites. What I do really want when the new year whips around is, generally, always the same: write more, write better. Every year. Without fail.


After a recent reflection on what’s been most helpful to me as a writer in my almost thirty years of writing, rewriting, and sometimes publishing, I realized there is something else I really want to do in the new year:


Keep making new writer friends.


The support of others has been the single most important thing that has helped me. If you are stuck, or stalled, or dreading the desk, try this: make a writer friend. Someone else who has what-feel-like-impossible writing goals like you do. Find your people. (It may take some time and effort—it did for me.) They don’t need to write in the same genre as you. You don’t even need to exchange work with them. Maybe you just sit and write together.


When we founded The Forge, we knew the program would not only provide an instant writing community for our students, but it would also give them opportunities to make lifelong literary connections.


I’ve just moved to the east coast temporarily, but I’ll be here long enough that I need the company of other writers while I’m here. Since I arrived I’ve checked out two different critique groups, am planning to visit a third, and I’ve attended eight readings. So far I’ve found a poet and fiction writer to join me in a weekly “submission party” where we meet at a coffee shop and each work on submitting our poems and stories to literary journals. And I still participate in a virtual critique group in Oregon.


As for the paperwhites, if someone delivered them and took care of them for me, that would be lovely, but I must face it, my new year’s buzz notwithstanding, I will not grow them myself. I will, however, look to grow new writer relationships, and nurture the existing ones, wherever I go.


Here’s to the new year, your new starts and mine, and getting that project underway, if not done, this year. May your paper not be white, may it trumpet all things, the beautiful as well as the vile-smelling, which is, as we know, the only thing that makes beauty possible.


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