Writing again

4 Aug

I’m drunk and in love. (Well, in a lateral way…) Just spend 48 hours or a little less at the NACL (National American Cultural Laboratory) writing in Erik Ehn’s workshop... a cross between a playwriting bootcamp and a monk’s retreat wherein we all prayed for a play! I was so happy that it was a silent retreat. Being in the company of other writers but not having to engage the chatter-schmooze-who’s whooo’s brain was wonderful. As is the place, a lovely old house in the Catskills with a theater/ rehearsal space next door. The workshop was a great mix of silence and time with intervals of group focus where Erik would offer new prompts and exercises.

I have a new term for my writing battles: the “noontime devil”. A monastery term for that slump and awfulness of the early afternoon when the morning’s promise is tarnished and the night’s relief is far from sight. . . and you think things like “I suck” and ” Whatever made me think I could write?” and “Well, I guess it’s all over for me”. And what else. . . to see your writing as a partner, to be in a dance and relationship with it. Reciprocity: characters I’m writing may also observe me. The writing may ask things of me, just as I ask things of IT (its requests can be painful to the ego: I want to write a deep intense intellectual blah about blah but IT wants to romp through a silly comedy about worms. For instance and purely hypothetically, etc.).

At the NACL ccommodation is spartan (shared rooms, shared few showers) dining is communal and everything felt geared towards the focused and respectful creation of work. I wrote 20 pages of Something which intrigues me and makes me want to spend time with it. . . and drank in the silence. We don’t get much of that in postmodern life, and the curse of doing well at anything is becoming horribly busy with things that are peripheral to the main deal. My dad warned me of this many years ago before I was any good at anything (even getting through a day, really). He’s a very good engineer and increasingly found that ascending the ranks professionally meant LESS time creating and MORE time doing business and deal-broking for others.

But I will say along with this memory of my dad during my adolescene (which couldn’t unfold into meaning until many years later for me when I had a context for it) is the memory of the day when, distraught at a friend’s death, I called him at his work and he just packed up for the day on the spot and took me sailing. We didn’t have heart-to-hearts, it was more your kind of risk-taking, high-adrenaline, water sport thing that we shared. There’s a wisdom in there somewhere: when you’re in imminent fear of the next gust of wind wiping you off the boat, it’s hard to be sad and inward. Speed, danger, water, near-drowning. These are some of the kinds of love my dad gave me.

What makes you happy? For me, what comes to mind right now is time on the water with my dad, listening to him warble a song and speak in his special animal voice to the seals or birds. The happiness of those one loves, in its inimitable and sometimes silly expression, is a category of joy often overlooked.

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One Response to “Writing again”

  1. Lindsay Price December 2, 2008 at 11:36 pm #

    What a focused retreat idea. No distractions…. but the work and your own brain.

    I don’t get the afternoon devil – I’m good till about 6:00. I get the early evening devil when I think I still should be working and I’m naturally tired, but I still try to work and so on….

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