Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Creative Rehab

I'm sitting in Port Townsend, WA in the computer lab of Goddard College's west coast branch where I'm working on my MFA in creative writing. When I checked my email just now (first time in several days), a friend sent a link to a Salon.com article by a
Carey Tennis
about his MFA school experience. Here's the line that jumped out at me:
. . . take care of your writing as you would take care of an animal or a child. Do not send it out into the world to do an adult's job. Just take care of it and, in its own way, it will take care of you.
Over the break between semesters, my inner critic escaped it's gilded cage and nearly ate me for dinner. This was due in part to the death of my dear niece, but also just because I'd let my guard down. By the time I arrived here on Sunday afternoon, I'd mentally eviscerated myself.

I've spent the past few days just pulling myself back together. Every morning and evening I give myself the gift of writing practice ala Natalie Goldberg, timed writing on topics that pop into my mind. I take long walks on the beach down to the lighthouse. I have lunch with a friend when I can. I stare out the window of my second-story room that looks over the water. I walk as slowly as the schedule will allow. And I breathe.

So far so good. I feel better. Surrounded by other writers and a good friend, listening to readings and lectures and water and mountains, I feel renewed. I am grieving and healing from various wounds. Regardless, I will continue.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No Words

My niece has been sick with cancer for 499 days. On Tuesday, day 500, she died. She was 24 years old. I have no words to express my sadness. It's too fresh. Too raw. Too real. In time, with distance, I'll be able to put words to it all.

For now, I am making notes about what I heard, saw, felt, smelled. Making lists of colors and names. And I am letting myself rest. It's been a long 500 days and yet they went by too quickly. I am so sad, but the written word cannot encompass all I feel. Even these precious words are not enough.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Brain Dumb

          “Can’t Think
          Brain Dumb
          Inspiration Won’t Come!
          Poor Ink
          Bum Pen
          Best Wishes, Amen.”
                    - Unknown

Hi Writers:

When I was in grade school, I memorized that ditty from one of those little books of quotes intended for writing in yearbooks. Yours Till Niagara Falls or something like that. That’s how I feel today. Can’t Think. Brain Dumb. Inspiration Won’t Come.

I’ve been on a break from graduate school and have been catching up on what I’d put off during the semester. I filed insurance claims, made annual medical appointments, gathered tax documents, fiddled with my website, and booked my trip for the February residency. I’ve been productive, but I haven’t been doing enough writing. And it’s difficult to write about writing when you’re not writing!

For the past few days I’ve been asking everybody I see what I should write in the essay. I asked some friends. I asked the dog. I asked my sister. I sat down and wrote questions to myself. No one, including me, had a half decent idea. Finally, I asked Ed.”Tell them you don’t know what to write,” he suggested. So here I am writing about not being able to think of anything to write. See, you really can write about anything.

That’s my message for you today. It’s sort of like the old adage, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” If your mind surrenders nothing, pour that onto the page. Put it down honestly. Write down the details of how it feels. Explain your emptiness to the world. Get your hand moving and, eventually, something will appear.