Narrative

On not writing about illness

On not writing about illness

I don’t want to write about this, she said.

For the woman who spoke these too familiar words to me, this was illness. Insidious, consuming, chronic. I nodded because it was also my story, just with different symptoms. We spoke in the shorthand we had each become practiced at employing around our narratives, framing conditions that did not, in spite of our best efforts, abate. I don’t know how to write about this, I thought. And I wondered if that was what, deep down, she had meant.

On acknowledging resistance

On acknowledging resistance

During some downtime at Vortext, the writing salon I attended earlier this month, I jotted into a notepad, trying to put a tail on the thoughts I’d started to gather on the ferry ride to the retreat grounds that morning. To pin down the questions I wanted my book to ask and to illustrate why they mattered by sketching out its opening scene.

I had resisted writing those words. As I let the questions take shape, however, I realized that my resistance needed its own place on the page. That the struggle to frame the questions was an essential part of the story too.

On releasing expectations

On releasing expectations

I’m trying to travel light next week for Vortext, a lovely writer’s salon hosted by Hedgebrook and the Whidbey Institute on an island just outside Seattle. I drew the Hanged Man this week as I started packing in earnest, an apt reminder to approach the task with — wait for it — non-attachment. I’m always afraid I’ll forget something I need!

On a deeper level, the card is an invitation to enter this writing retreat without placing too much pressure on that time, rare as such a getaway is for me. Not that there isn’t opportunity in the everyday to do some kind of writing — I’m passionate about supporting other writers in cultivating windows, large and small, for their practice — but three days devoted solely to that work is something to be relished.