Did anyone catch my last post? The one where I bewailed how my Tin House workshop went? I took it down less than a day after I posted it--it was too whiny and self-indulgent and maybe just a bit too confessional.
I had written about the workshop before I had processed it, which, ironically, might be the most important writing lesson I learned last week. One needs space to write and this space takes on a number of dimensions: a physical space and space of time in which to write, but also psychological space. I cannot write about the things that have happened in my own life until I've processed them, or at least, until I've processed how difficult it is to process them.
My daughter says she sometimes feels like she is falling while she is sitting still, and I know exactly what she means. In part, that's why I think I want to branch out into nonfiction. I want to write about how hard it is to know your own life. I'm not so interested in writing about the life lessons I've learned but rather about what I've failed to learn, or about how murky the thinking gets when you try to step out of your life and examine it.
Abby meant it literally, but I'm speaking of a different, meta-emotional place: I am falling and sitting still at the same time. Exactly.
Despite everything, I feel it's important to own up to how very tough that workshop was for me. Steve Almond presented a lecture on the second or third day--all the days are running together--about what they don't teach you in MFA programs. He said a number of things, but what really stuck with me was this: you are going to care about your stories.
I have a lot more to say about Tin House and my struggle to write nonfiction, but I got an email from my editor last night and though she said she was just checking in to see how my summer was going, clearly she's looking to see how the revision of Goliath is going. So, while I want to transcribe every one of my Tin House notes here, and I will, it might take me a while.
I have long loved a quote from poet Gwendolyn Brooks. She said, "What else is there to say but everything?" Even writing from my boring life, my ordinary experiences, and although even in fiction, there truly are no new stories, but only infinite retellings, there's still everything left to say. Everything.