Saturday, October 17, 2009

Letting Go

Over the past month, I have shared my worries and excitement concerning the publication of my memoir. To be completely honest, I was unprepared for the exhaustion that accompanies publication. I've been an emotional wreck. I fretted over the few copies of Musical Chairs that escaped with a few typos and the fear of eminent judgment and misinterpretation of my words, but this fear was not wholly due to exposure, but rather loss. You see, in releasing my book, I cannot look back. After five years of work, this is a difficult thing, to let go.

Then again, it seems that the hardest journeys are sometimes fruitful. I have no delusions about the fact that my book is still far from perfect: I make mistakes. However, publishing, releasing my work into the world, is not one of them. I wanted to be upfront about my post-traumatic publication worry because I found very little in other author's blogs about the subject. (Believe me, I looked.)

That said, I am ready to move on, creatively. Many generous writers have assured me that this anxiety is normal, especially when an author bares her soul in her writing. Yet, the reason I wrote that memoir in the first place is because I have huge respect for other memoirists: Tobias Wolff, Phillip Lopate, Vladimir Nabokov, Mary Karr, and on and on, for their bravery; their willingness to share, at many times in my life, made this reader feel less alone. It's my turn to (wo)man up.

So, while the reviews trickle in, I have decided to return to the essence of what motivated me to begin writing in the first place. It is no exaggeration for me to say that my love affair with reading and writing has saved my life, and I cannot stop now.

Today, I am coming full circle. I have begun to return to my stories, my fiction and essays, and I am ready to begin this cycle again, to begin a new book. It has always seemed the most difficult part of writing--the beginning, and so I thought I'd share this journey as well.

Armed with the store of knowledge I have gained at Bennington's Writing Seminars and the process of writing my first book, I have found solace in the fact that a new beginning seems less intimidating. I have begun free writing exercises. These have always helped me achieve a cathartic, even raw feel that drives my characters and scenes from ideas to realization. I do this in ten minute spurts, a trick I learned from a good friend Jennifer Roberts, one of the first people to support me as a writer. We used to go to a coffee shop, pick a sentence, a prompt, and set the timer, not allowing pen to leave paper for five to ten minutes at a time. What would come out was hardly a story, but these exercises sparked something more innately artistic and genuine. The essence of story. The beginning. I highly recommend this exercise and I wanted to share it. Here are the instructions, as we used them:

Grab your favorite book.
Open randomly to a page, point at a sentence.
Set the timer.
Write the sentence.
Keep going, no matter what.

Pen does not leave paper until the timer stops, regardless of what comes out. Often, for me, this would be something along the lines of I don't know what to write, I don't want to do this exercise, I have no idea what to do, my hand itches... but eventually, something would come. It is written meditation. It is a beginning.

Cheers, to new beginnings.

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