Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Workshop with Lynda Barry

Last weekend I spent the day writing with 15 others. We all started with a blank page. If that sounds like hell, well, it was. Thankfully we were guided by the venerable, always illuminating, never a dull moment writer extraordinaire, Lynda Barry, which made it a great day. The event was hosted by the Vancouver Writer's Festival.

We had been forewarned to bring in at least 3 pens and 100 sheets of blank paper. Oh yeah, we had to turn off our electronic devices nor could we check them during our limited breaks. If we accepted these terms, then we were expected to write, and write we did. Bigtime.

It was worth every moment - we filled dozens of pages, wrote at least 10 stories and generated enough ideas to fill another notebook. In the process, I was reminded of the value of including "play" as a part of my process. That is, exploring all possibilities without questioning whether they were any good, whether any of my words could eventually be published, whether any of my ideas had any external value.

After working on my book for approximately 1/8th of my lifetime, I realized I had lost the tenuous connection between exploring ideas for creativity's sake and the process of discovering "the story". This was particularly evident during the recent edits of my book, a process akin to sticking pins in your eyeball, one that took most of this year. I often questioned my intent and process - was I working too earnestly charging towards publication? Had I lost my creative impulse? Was there any way to inject joy into my process while dealing with such dark and bleak characters?

Perhaps the answers to these questions was not flattering at times, and while I certainly learned a thing or two along the way, did I choose the right process for this book? It's impossible to say now. But what I do know is that I had become insular and closed towards my own process, for better or worse. It's what Andreas Schroeder once said is akin to "the closing of the fontenelle."

The intensive workshop was a great day to learn an alternate process, one that involved shelving the computer and returning to the basics: pen and paper and organized freewriting, open to everything. The day was a creative bootcamp that has bolstered me and gave me a much needed kick in the ass. I might have drained my beloved Highland Park 18 year old whisky at the end of the day, but my guns are re-loaded - it's time to get back to work.

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