Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How I Know I'm Ready

There are outfits. Last year, when I went to the Tomales Bay workshops, there was more of a story at this point, but there weren't as many outfits. The story was trying something, it was the first story, literally. I always used to say I wasn't a strong enough writer for a short story, that working on a novel seemed so much more forgiving, not like a short story where it's all there, without the excuse of "more to come" or "later" in the book. You can see it in a glance, the short story. Still, there was a way in which that story was impermeable, never got to its own heart, still hasn't, and I got called on it, and reminded of how much writing hurts. I liked some of the words in that story, I liked the voice of it, and by the time I took it Tomales for workshop for the workshop, that had become a kind of armor that hid what was missing at the heart of that story. That story still rattles back an echo at me whenever I tap on it, just to check. I'm not sure I'll ever find it's heart.

This year, there is no story. There are story clumps, fragments, they are gooey and stick to me. The page is set, margins where they are supposed to be, and McNally has given us twelve pages, period, so that's that too. This helps, I create a sub-file titled "Birds That Eat Meat - brutal cuts" and this lets me carve away the things I find myself reworking, hung up on to no avail. Twelve pages, for me, is about making this story as simple as possible, quit messing around with the stuff that made last year's story so empty and just get it on the page, get some pieces in place so that the real work can begin. The real work of letting it be read, and felt and commented on. That's the hard part, for this one.

Which is why it's good that there are outfits. Outfits for a bright fall. Mirrored sunglasses, old jeans, scarves and handknit socks and things you can wear in a cold classroom, or in the back of a room of long readings. A thick wool sweater with the neck cut off then trimmed with bright orange thread, so that people are reminded that you are a human with collarbones, with bird-like parts, capable of breaking, light bones, hollow enough to fly.

2 comments:

Barb said...

Even your writing about writing is beautiful, Heather, and I'm sure you'll continue to astound those around you at Tomales. Enjoy the week. I know how fast it goes.

Jessica Soga said...

Um... outfits you know how I feel about those. Speaking of, my equestrian rubber rain boots finally arrived in the mail today. I am extremely pleased with this online purchase and its all thanks to your lovely mention that equestrian rain boots actually exist. My feet will now stay dry and warm through my first tough NY winter. More shopping tomorrow for warm items... trying to stock up so I am not left out in the cold.