The artist as a person who decides

I found so much fodder for reflection in Kim Stafford’s book, “Early Morning—Remembering My Father, William Stafford,” that I feel compelled to capture a bit of it here.

William Stafford, poet and, for over thirty years, a teacher at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon,   tells his son,  “A student comes to me with a piece of writing, holds it out, says, ‘Is this good?’  A whole sequence of emergencies goes off in my mind.  That’s not a question to ask anyone but yourself.  Others may be able to accept standards from another.  But an artist is a person who decides.”

Counseling students, he would say,  “Once you decide to write in your own voice, for your own purposes, in your own way—then the act of writing is your teacher.”

My training and years of experience as a nurse have taught me a great deal but I believe that a regular practice of keeping  journals and writing poems and essays inspired by my work has made me a more astute and resilient clinician, compassionate caregiver and enlightened observer of the health professions. In that way, my writing is good.  I have become an artist, a person who decides.