September 17, 2012

Teaching Writing

Sometimes, teaching is a matter of being a river. I have my own riverbed and flow, but I invite yours. You don't have to join me; a confluence is often turbulent.  I invite you to become your own river.  It's likely you have just the place inside -- empty with boulders.  Sun shines and the water sends back the light.  It rains and suddenly you find currents, erosions, accretions, eddies. Willows hold and reach across the river to the other side. 

Sometimes a riverbed is dry. No matter. Maybe we'll work on the headwaters.  Maybe it has gone underground. The point is, you have riverness.  

I know water follows its own path. In the work, writers must let themselves be -- be a beginner, be uncertain, be full of clouds.  The clouds are on the surface.   Submerge and find the deep places, the cold and warm currents tugging on the roots and carrying the leaves and feathers and fish.  Things fall in, bridges are built, voices arrive.   

Image, image, image-engine.  Imagine.  One day the rains came for days and the water rose and tore away trees. I stood amid mudslides and broken roads.  Oh, that's a river for you. It rages and subsides.  We begin over and over.  

I want to trigger stories. It doesn't matter if they become poems, fiction, nonfiction, or letters. I want to tell you it begins with rain, and it becomes a path. It becomes deep, empties into a larger body. In this process of language falling among language --  we take in light, fall, let things go, arrive.

September 9, 2012

Write, Write, Write and Do Not Waste Time

About writing, Annie Dillard says,

"Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art; do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength. Giacometti's drawings and paintings show his bewilderment and persistence. If he had not acknowledged his bewilderment, he would not have persisted. A master of drawing, Rico Lebrun, discovered that ''the draftsman must aggress; only by persistent assault will the live image capitulate and give up its secret to an unrelenting line.'' Who but an artist fierce to know - not fierce to seem to know - would suppose that a live image possessed a secret? The artist is willing to give all his or her strength and life to probing with blunt instruments those same secrets no one can describe any way but with the instruments' faint tracks.

"Admire the world for never ending on you as you would admire an opponent, without taking your eyes off him, or walking away.

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

"After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ''Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.'' "