Intentions

On finding the message in the mess

On finding the message in the mess

This month has been about looking back. Not the sort of reflection that happens on the page, but the kind that has to do with checking in and taking stock.

The process of gathering specific memories and corroborating them with family and friends for my book project has been going on since February, and now that I have quite the growing information cache, I’ve needed to step back and consider it all at once. I don’t want to lose sight of what my intentions were when I started this exploration, and at the same time, I don’t want to miss opportunities to let the material point me in directions I could not have known about at the outset.

When a story isn’t

When a story isn’t

Last week, I talked about the challenge of facing a story that needs to be told when we’re afraid to start telling it. This week, the obstacle on my mind is not having a story to tell.

I spent the first two years of my graduate work in Iowa struggling to figure out what the central narrative of my thesis would be. Sure, I had stories. But my story — the one I was supposed to turn into a book-length manuscript — eluded me.

“Some people only have one book in them,” my thesis advisor said to me, intending to reassure but seizing instead upon my fears. “It takes the effort of a lifetime to write it.”

On setting intentions for process, not product

On setting intentions for process, not product

“Finding our ways as writers,” Louise DeSalvo writes in The Art of Slow Writing, “is a daily, ever-changing process. As soon as we've figured out how to work, something happens and everything falls apart and we need to learn how to work all over again.”

That is what the past few weeks have been about for me. I've been observing where my writing process has needed to shift around the changes in our family routines — a change of school, a change of schedule, a change in the availability of our childcare. It’s been messy. But to my relief, now that October has arrived, I feel some stability returning in spite of the loss of so much familiar structure.