I am about to begin work on another draft of my memoir. After a sending out to our first round of publishers and getting a pile of loving and enthusiastic rejections, I'm setting out to cut forty pages. Before Lynda's class, I was a little daunted by this. A little dejected by the rejection despite all the warm feelings. Now, though, I feel ready. Lynda described the arc of the story as "having something, losing something and finding it again." I had my father, I lost him to Alzheimer's and then I found him again in me. When I think of my manuscript, I can think of at least forty pages that have absolutely nothing to do with that story. I am ready to work. "Good! Good!"
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
It's been a week since my last (first) post and though I've been thinking about writing almost constantly, I haven't actually written. I spent the entirety of last Wednesday and Thursday at a workshop taught by Lynda Barry. Based on her amazing and beautiful book, What it Is, the workshop was basically all writing -- moving my hand across sheet after sheet after sheet of loose leaf paper. When I wasn't writing, I was making spirals on the page, circling and circling and circling my pen until I'd almost hypnotized myself. Every exercise started with a list. Number your page from one to ten. Now think of ten walks you have taken, ten friends you have had, ten things you think of when you hear the word "lie." We list quickly, stopping perhaps to worry out a name or a detail, not pausing too long and if the pause grows too uncomfortable, we return to the soothing spiral, or write the ABCs, anything at all to keep the pen in motion, the brain fluid and flexible, like water rolling over rocks. Next, we take the list and pick one thing. Think of that thing. Where are you? What's in front of you? Behind? To the right? To the left? What's further in front, further behind and so on and so on... By the time I began eight minutes of writing, I knew where I was in the world. After eight minutes, Lynda would ask for readers. In order to give the reader our ultimate respect, to leave them alone with their words, we bowed our head over our notebooks and drew spirals. I heard the words of dozens of people, but I did not see their faces. I heard their stories, but because I was not aloud to speak, these stories came at me in a different way. I listened instead of thinking of something wonderful to say. While we read, Lynda would crouch at our feet, listening, and when we were finished, she'd pop up and say, "Good, good!" That's it. That's all. No questions about where the story was going, no requests for more information, no dissection of metaphor, symbol and simile. Just "GOOD!"
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
So, I was sitting around a small kitchen table today with a couple of fellow writers. We get together every month or so to read our work aloud and jaw about books we've read and people we've met. We talk about our amazing kids (among them a tall ship sailor, a couple of soccer players, a boy who'd like to be a mailman...) and then we go back to talking about writing. And it's amazing. Three hours fly by, soup gets eaten, words are read and I am back in my car with book recommendations, support, encouragement and an assignment: start a blog. Do it even if you don't show it to everyone (or even anyone.) Do it so that you write everyday.
Though I consider myself a writer, I don't write everyday. I don't know how to go about it as a "job," even though it's the only job I really think I'm qualified to do. My husband says that since I've finished a book (yet to be published) I am doing okay so far. But this book took 8 years on and off to complete while simultaneously having and raising two kids and I'd like to think that as the kids grow, so too, can my productivity. But how? What does this practice look like?
My yoga practice, such as it is, needs to take place in the company of others. I look forward to a class where I can be there to steady the legs of the person next to me, where I can reach a hand toward the sky and know that all around me others reach as well. It means something to me to know that I am not alone.
So these monthly gatherings around a kitchen table, a bowl of soup, a plate of muffins -- these gatherings are a way of group practice. As I write these words, I can almost see, out of the corner of my eye, other fingers moving across other keyboards. Writing every day. At least here. At least a little. I am in good company.