I've been remiss in my blogosphere duties, so these posts have been sparse lately (though my page views mysteriously increase monthly). There are many writing resources I'd love to share with you, but it's crunch-time in MFA-land. It's hard to believe that almost two years have passed since I began my writing program at the University of San Francisco! I'm just beginning to sift through all my class notes, books and readers to glean what I've learned and apply some of those "craft strategies" to my summer project: revising my 200-page nonfiction manuscript--a collection of family-centered essays.
Funny, that's exactly what my inner naysayer said about applying to grad school. But once I started writing each story I found it was like any task--doing is always easier than anticipating.
Not to say that writing is easy; it will always be hard work. But something else I've noticed, and I owe it to meeting many deadlines, is that the inner critic has become much quieter. Whereas I used to edit as I wrote, I've been able to enter a more ethereal space where right-brain associations lead the pen (or keyboard). I'm much more prone to first getting the material on the page, then shaping it into something that makes meaning (all the while, my left-brain logic and language working to organize it).
"I don't write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know," writes Patricia Hampl in her article "Memory and Imagination." In other words, approach an essay or memoir as an investigation--into memory, truth, point of view, voice--rather than a mere recounting of events. Hampl says memoir is not reliving experience on the page, but an exploration of relationship between image and emotion that transforms experience, and the memory of it, into meaning.
I consider all that now as I face semester's end with final assignments, including a complete thesis draft (annotated with a compilation of comments and changes I'd like to make) due May 9. Thankfully, I'll be working under the kindly critical tutelage of my adviser, Lisa Harper, author of A Double Life, Discovering Motherhood. When not overwhelmed, I'm quite excited to experiment and play--especially with structure (for each essay and overall)--to achieve a "publishable book-length work" by August 1st.