Sometimes it’s a tumble-bumble swirl and I stumble along awash in feelings and hardly able to think. Hardly knowing what to think.
In short, it’s a mess.
That…umm…might just be how I feel right now. But I often say to my writing students that where life is chaos; fiction is pattern. As we make art, we make a kind of sense.
At the very least, we give voice to the pain and dismay.
Ever since I wrote Only a Pigeon with my brother, I’ve taken pictures of pigeons that pop into my travels, and when I was part of the Vermont College MFA residency last week, I found this pigeon appealing. A pigeon in the mist.
Sometimes we stumble along like a pigeon in the mist.
Vermont College is where writers get to come together and take writing seriously for 10 days every winter and every summer. The dorm where I sleep (right beyond that pigeon) sure was hot this summer. This morning, on my way home, I landed in Detroit on the hottest day in Detroit recorded history and, by the time I ran across the airport and back to make my plane, I was drippy with sweat. Once again, VCMFA residency lived up to my nickname, Boot Camp for Writers. But when the bagpipes start wailing and the graduating class walks in, Boot Camp feels precious and sweet.
Where else do most of get to be so silly?
And so serious?
Where else do we get to sit and listen while other people pay intent attention to every word we’ve written and the effect it creates?
Who else will pull us and push us and nudge us and bump us out of our usual ways of seeing things?
Who will show us new ways to create the effects we want to create?
The graduating class this summer named themselves after a lecture that reminded us our words have to staple the reader to the page; if not, it’s all too easy for the reader to put our story down, go make a cheese sandwich, and never come back.
Being an artist in this world doesn’t make a lot of sense. Artists fail constantly. When bears go over the mountain, the only thing they see is the other side of the mountain, but artists see another mountain…a bigger mountain. Artists starve.
Stumbling and bumbling along in the mist, trying to find the way, it’s good to be with bat poets, cheese sandwiches, and dancing stars.