Wednesday July 11, 2012 – 11:00 am
Posted by Ali
I hate Sundays.
When I was a kid, they meant scurrying to finish homework, having to go to bed early, dreading the school day. Now, they mean a pile of laundry, unanswered emails, a garden with weeds and drooping tomato plants.
A few Sundays ago also marked the end of the Reynolds Young Writers’ Workshop—and though I’m grateful for my own bed, my own food, no morning announcements and no cheerleaders, the week stretches out before me: long and empty. Lonely.
I will miss my students, my teaching assistants and fellow faculty. I will miss your enthusiasm, your energy, your ideas, and your joy. I will miss you—and your love of writing, which is contagious.
This week, there are no exercises, no anthology deadlines, no readings, no other writers around. No one’s sprawled on the yard with a book in her hand. No one’s writing on a napkin in the kitchen. My neighbor’s chain-sawing a felled tree into bits. The other neighbor’s target practicing again.
The loneliness—the new loneliness around here—reminds me of a correspondence I had with a staffer at a writing workshop I attended, many summers ago. He wrote of the summer workshop “as a booster that gets us through the year, isolated, often wondering what and why we are doing what we do.”
Yet more than once during our week together, I heard people say: I only write when I’m sad and it’s so hard to write when things are good. I want to try to clear something up about that. For one thing, you need to write every day—and I certainly hope you aren’t sad every single day. For another, it’s not sadness that fuels your writing—at least it isn’t for me—it’s memory.
We write about where we’ve been, not where we are. We write about the people we’ve left, not the ones we live with. We write about mistakes because they haunt us. We write about love because it haunts us too. We write about the past—when maybe we happened to be unhappy or lost or in another place—because the present is too close. We’re still in it, and we don’t know what to say about it. Not yet.
Maybe this might comfort you after the workshop, as we are going our separate ways: You will write about this place where you learned about prose poems and dialogue and memoir and heat, where you figured out how to read on a stage, where you walked up and down a hundred stairs. You will come back to it, if only in your work—and it will be there for you.
Have a wonderful life. Don’t forget–when you’re ready–to look back.