Joyce Hinnefeld


Friday, March 30, 2012

" . . . where the path would lead"

Well I fear I come off as incredibly harsh (particularly as a teacher) at the end of my last blog post. When I say “remember that the first page or two, at a minimum, will be horrible,” and advise readers to take a class with me, “and I’ll force you to deal with it,” I hope it’s clear that I’m really talking about myself here. I’m the kind of writer who has to tell myself this very thing, pretty much every time I sit down to work: Don’t worry if it starts out horribly. Don’t worry if it’s all horrible today. Just start.
At a panel at the AWP Conference in Chicago earlier this month, I was reminded--by Sy Safransky, founder of The Sun Magazine--of Gail Sher’s wonderful One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers, a book I read years ago. It’s good to revisit that calming Buddhist approach to writing, and good to be reminded that I’ll probably do better to find that voice--which I do have, at least at times--if I plan to write about the writing process here. Sher says what I was trying to say at the end of my previous post in a much more soothing way: 
Like a pump (which often brings up muddy water before it brings up clean), a writer (who is a kind of pump for her own personal purifying process), must be intimate with the mechanism--the pressure, the speed, the viscosity--that brings forth her best work and must be patient enough to wade through the muck that inevitably precedes it.
Alas, Sher also says something else a few pages before, which is this: The writer’s desk is a miniature world. Self-contained. Hopefully quiet.
Well, hopefully. But the point I was trying to make is that it won’t always be quiet and self-contained. At least I don’t think mine will be, not for a while--not while my daughter’s still young, not while I’m also teaching. We have to accept where we are, now, and still find that “miniature world,” whatever else might be spilling into it.
The second photo I included in my last post is of the somewhat tidy, if crowded, table in an alcove of the room I work in (my main desk really is too much of a mess to share in public). You can’t really tell, but I wish you could, that most of the pictures I have up in that alcove are of crows. It’s taken a while, but I’ve come to love crows--their awe-inspiring winter rookeries here in Bethlehem, PA (hundreds of them in trees in the middle of town each year--making a horrid mess of sidewalks and cars parked below them), their persistence and ubiquitousness, their noisy banter. Their keen interest in our refuse. 
Crows are wily, and resilient, and in their own way beautiful. They’re a reminder of the value of sticking with things, even ugly or unpleasant things. When I hear a crow, I think: You’re right; I should keep working.
One of the images on my wall is a 2006 photograph titled “they wondered where the path would lead” by a teaching colleague of mine, a fantastic artist named Krista Steinke, from her “Backyards, BB Guns, and Nursery Rhymes” series. Check out this series (and more of Krista’s work) if you’re looking for inspiration.

No comments:

Post a Comment