Tomales, Report Two

Got to bed closer to my right time last night, but still waking up early was hard today — in my bedroom, we got lots of serenading from the snoozed alarm. How’s the morning where you are? Still quiet? Deep blue? Opening?

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Remember: Next month, I get to spend a bunch of good time up in the Davis/Sacramento area — come and join me! Over the second weekend, I’ll be facilitating two day-long workshops, Reclaiming Our Erotic Story and Write Whole: Survivors Write, both hosted by AWA Sacramento/Sutterwriters (visit their site for more info and to register). On November 15, 4pm, I get to talk about erotic writing as liberatory practice at UC Davis as a part of their Conversations with Writers series.

Also! On Nov 12, 7:30pm, there will be a book launch for The Healing Art of Writing: Volume One. The launch reading and celebration will be held at Open Secret Book Store on C Street, San Rafael, CA. I have an excerpt in this book from a memoir/fiction piece called sistersister. I’m figuring out if I can make it to San Rafael when the workshop ends at 5 in Sacto — I’d love to be there for the reading. It’s going to be a fantastic event.

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I think part of me, of my writing self, is still up in Tomales, looking around for time to write, time to settle into the words that describe what just happened. A number of folks from my workshop group, I think, are in the same sort of head-heart space, holding all that just got broken open in us and working, now, to figure out what to do with all that gorgeous mess, how to fit it into our lives, or how to shift our lives to hold the places where we’ve grown.

In a comment to the previous post, alexn wrote:

Learning about writing seems to be  just a small part of the experience of attending a workshop like this. It seems so much more about learning about myself as a writer.   It’s the sort of thing the will be settling in me for weeks, months maybe.

I nodded along with alexn, reading this: although I did get a lot about writing practice and craft from the five days at Tomales (including learning about the associative voice and, over and over, visceral experience/examples of show don’t tell), the deeper stuff that’s looking for words/integration now is the part about who I am as a writer in my life — that is, the space that writing practice and work has in my life, and how much I want to grow that space. Let me see how I can write about it now, five days after coming home.

What I met, at the conference, was another part of who I want to be in the world, both in myself and in others: someone who regularly and consistently engages with writing on multiple levels, the blogging and first drafts, yes, please, and then, also, the next part: the editing, the revising, the deeper work of finding the true voice of a piece and working to let it out. That’s a part of my writing life I don’t engage often enough. The part that publishes, yes, and the part that gets to talk with other people about deep and arcane aspects of craft and the experience of a writer.

Also: I felt (I think this is one of the biggest pieces for me) the space that I want/need to  be able to get into some of my writing projects — over the course of those five days, I touched a life practice that could truly be centered around writing, and that sort of bodily experience effects and shapes visioning, helps me to feel that it would be possible to have that sort of life more consistently, away from writing retreat — I mean, in my real life.

I came home with some powerful clarity about what I need as a writer, and with some encouragement to be ferocious in naming and claiming that space. We’re clearing out some clutter, reshaping spaces — cleaning off the desk, getting rid of these piles of paper that sit for weeks until I file them or recycle. Just do it now. Rethink a decorating strategy that’s about letting framed photos lie flat on tabletops — how do you want to honor your space? With dust and clutter, or with some room to breathe, room to let ideas and images grow?

Clearing away all the piles and mess is just one part, though, the easier part. The harder part is owning what I really want for this one wild and precious life, and devoting myself to it with fierce compassion — if you are a writer, I learn over and over at spaces like Tomales, you must take the time you need to write. Others won’t give it to you. There will always be more demands. You will sacrifice in order to own this part of yourself. Sacrifice joyfully. Parents at the workshop, including Dorothy Allison and Kwame Dawes, talked about the necessity of the parent-writer to embrace benign neglect in order to make space for their writing.

(Please note, however, that in the middle of the sentence above, about focus and sacrifice, I stopped to help the puppy find her rope bone in the dark apartment. So, take from that what you will.)

There’s more: the desire for the deep quiet at Tomales, multileveled. Over the course of those five days, I was away from media, both traditional and social: no tv, no facebook, very little email. Talk about breathing room. What if my life were situated such that I had to work to access those things, those media, rather than working to clear open space in my head and life to write? Just imagine the ripple effects of such a shift.

So in the midst of planning for next year’s workshops (Bayview Writers in Tiburon and San Rafael, Dive Deep project/manuscript workshop in San Francisco, Write Whole in San Francisco, Declaring Our Erotic in SF, Writing the Flood in SF and Oakland, and, hopefully, a couple of online workshops as well — yowza) — wait, I lost track of what it was I wanted to say. You see the need for big space? What was it — in the midst, oh yes, in the midst of planning all this, I’m thinking about how I can get back to Tomales Bay for regular retreats, deep writing space, big openness and quiet in head and heart, as well as outside.

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A prompt for today: Find a candle and light it — be silent for a moment, watching the flame; if you’re doing this on a work break, sit quiet for a moment and imagine a candle. Notice the sound, the scent. Notice what associations you have with candle, with quiet, with flame. Notice what voices begin to rise up, even if it’s your to-do list. Begin to write from whatever arises during the time you spend with the candle. Give yourself 10 minutes, and follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you, always, for the ways that you burn. Thank you for your deep light. Thank you for your words.

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