Track Changes

Dear Karen -

I have a four day weekend coming up, a weekend in which I intend to take a walk by the river every morning and then have breakfast, and begin my work. My work right now is called Track Changes. This is not the name of a novel, but is the program through which I must work on my editor’s suggestions. It’s the first time I have worked with this program, and it’s taken some getting used to. My goal is to get this finished this weekend and get it zoomed off into cyber space.

My life amazes me for a number of reasons. One is how much things change in the publishing world from the time I publish one book to the time that I publish the next. I admit that I am not a fast writer, but still, I started off with a typewriter, although I never learned to type.

I never learned to type because when I told my mother I wasn’t going to college, she told me I better learn to type so I could be a secretary. I couldn’t see myself being a secretary, so, to make sure it didn’t happen, I refused to learn to type. This is pretty much how I have gone about most things in my life. It’s not been the best tactic, but just look at where I’ve landed. I think if I’d been a few years later or earlier, nothing would have worked out as it has. I believe I’d have a hard time getting my first novel published these days, but I think Faulkner might have a hard time too.

I feel blessed to be who and what I am. Working as a teacher, running writers’ groups in my studio means that when I get blue about my own writing, or am simply fallow, I am still in touch with the all the good parts if it, because my students bring stories to me every week. I feel like a goddess!

And I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels when I am writing, but I don’t have to, because you know. You know that place, that sinking into another world, and that fog machine we look through to vaguely see the outlines of the furniture in our writing rooms. That’s the part I love the most. I think it’s the part that every writer loves the most.

One of my reasons for self-publishing this book is the pressure I always felt in the traditional publishing world to be the kind of writer who could be groomed to become someone else’s idea of a commercial success. It’s not that I’m opposed to commercial success, especially my own. In fact I’m quite in favor of it, but as you can tell from the typing story above, I always insist on being myself. I certainly didn’t become a writer so I could be someone else. In other words, I’m pretty stubborn, and frankly it’s always worked out for me.

One of the exercises I like to give at the start of a class is this: Make a list of all the things that support your creative life. Now make a list of all the things that threaten it. I do this exercise myself whenever I feel that I am losing my way. It grounds me, and shows me plainly, right there on the page, what I need to do to nurture and protect my creative life, and what I need to stop doing that threatens it. I believe that as an artist the one thing I must do for myself that no one else can do is protect and nurture my creativity. Thinking this way has given me a lot of clarity, and a lot of that spaciousness we talk about.

This morning on my walk I saw a goose along the river. She was in the water, but hugging close to the bank. When she saw me, she flattened her body and stretched her long neck out horizontally to make herself as invisible as possible. Sometimes I need to do that too.



PS – I’d never seen a goose do that before. I just might put that in a book somewhere.

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