Guest Bloggers

Alison Luterman and Patience


Guest Blogger Alison Luterman writes:

January 2018

Happy New Year! A few weeks ago I read something on-line about the concept of a “word for the year” and being a sucker for all things woo, decided to try it. Someone had used the word “Delight” and her career exploded into a lovely confetti burst of rainbows and candy canes.

Sounds good, I thought. I’ll take “Delight” too. But wait! It turns out that you can’t just choose a word willy-nilly. It’s more like the word chooses you. The next day as I sat scribbling morning pages it came to me in a sickening flash of insight: my word is Patience; unsexy, old-fashioned Patience. Not the ever-popular Abundance or Adventure or Sex Goddess, (even those are all very good words and you’re welcome to them). But as soon as I saw my pen writing “Patience,” I knew: It’s what I need most.

Like most writers I tend to live in my head where conception occurs simultaneously with the fantasy of fulfillment. Meaning, I can get a Big Idea for a new play or musical or book of poems and at the same time imagine the finished product, and the opening night party. Even knowing that somewhere between the germ of an idea and whenever a production actually sees the light of day lies an ocean of work, much dumb luck, and the budgeting of time and work and money to live on while doing the work—and I know all this—still, each time I get swept off my feet by the next entrancing vision.

So the only way to move forward is step by step. Much as I would have liked to instantaneously undo the last election, and much as I’d like to wave a magic wand and have all my creative babies realized and successful, the reality remains a lot of work, some of it tedious, much of it invisible. Hence, Patience.

And then there’s teaching, which is my spiritual path, but like all spiritual paths, in addition to being rewarding and fulfilling, also lights up my growing edges, as we charitably call them in California, with painful clarity.

Here’s what I learned in teaching and coaching this past year: I’m great at seeing what’s missing, which is sometimes a useful superpower. With one client, I read her wonderful memoir-in-progress and said, “I love all these vivid tales from your youth, but I’m not getting the turning-point. When and how did you turn your life around?”


“Oh, I wasn’t sure if I should include that,” she said, before telling me the story of an important relationship whose demise signaled her awakening. We both saw immediately that this was where the plot pivoted and she went away inspired, knowing what to write next. This client and I work well together; she’s a lot like me, driven and fierce in her process.

But there are other students whose growth depends on gentle spacious encouragement. What would it be like to practice radical patience, not only in politics and writing, but also with beginning students, and in my personal life, with my husband and friends and family, and most of all with myself?

I think it’s an Indonesian proverb that says, “Go slowly, we’re in a hurry.” Patience doesn’t always come easily to me. But seeing as how the world is at stake I’m willing to take it on.

Alison Luterman is a poet, essayist and playwright. Her books include the poetry collections Desire Zoo (Tia Chucha Press), The Largest Possible Life (Cleveland State University Press) and See How We Almost Fly (Pearl Editions) and a collection of essays, Feral City (SheBooks). Luterman’s plays include Saying Kaddish With My Sister, Hot Water, Glitter and Spew, Oasis, and The Recruiter and the musical, The Chain.

Her writings have been published in The Sun, The New York Times, The Boston Phoenix, Rattle, The Brooklyn Review, Oberon, Tattoo Highway, Ping Pong, Kalliope, Poetry East, Poet Lore, Poetry 180, Slipstream, and other journals and anthologies.

Alison has taught at The Writing Salon in Berkeley, the Esalen Institute, and the Omega Institute, as well as at high schools, juvenile halls, and poetry festivals.

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