Monday, April 23, 2012

lucky drivel

It turns out that in some ways I am lucky. Weeks ago, after I receiving an acceptance to the Highlights Foundation Nature Writing Bootcamp, I got an email about the details of the three day event.  Part of the information the organizers wanted was a manuscript that each participant planned to work on while at camp.  I fretted and fumbled about.  I didn’t like my fiction tomato story terribly much, and I had been working on my AT story for so frickin long I couldn’t imagine working on it more.  So I decided that in the two weeks I had before manuscript deadline, I would begin anew.  I grabbed an idea out of my notebook, researched my pants off, revised the original idea, and spewed gobs of blabber onto the page. Two days before the deadline I ended up with a terrible, long, wordy, and strange eight pages.

Embarrassed, I sent it in, with a note saying how great it would be to get to work on this more when I got to camp.  Meaning- please do not read this drivel, it will make your eyes rot out of your head and cause you to reconsider why you accepted me in the first place.

Several days later I got an email from the person who was to become my faculty mentor at camp, Dianna Hutts Aston.  She informed me that she had read the manu and looked forward to meeting me in person. Insert shocked face of deer, frozen in headlight, here...  Before I could breath, and hoping that the manuscript had somehow self-corrected via email, I wrote her back and politely asked this professional and popular author to not spend too much time on my drivel, for I knew it needed revision. (Understatement of the year.)

This however, was not the lucky part.  A few days after that, I went to meet the school bus and pulled out of the mailbox a packet from Highlights.  It had my manu, and three others from the conferees who would be in my small group.  So, not only had an intelligent, well known author read my drivel, but three other aspiring writers would today have my work in their hands.  While looking around for the nearest cliff to jump off, the bus arrived.  I refrained from throwing myself in front of it, and decided to relax into the fact that I was, at the very least, giving some unknown to me and probably very well-versed people a hearty laugh.

So, I ran away to Vegas.

When I came back, my manu was still there, waiting in computer stasis for my sun-filled brain to revise it.

Then it was time to go to camp.  I went to Honesdale, PA. I met great people. I ate great food. And I had my own little writer’s cabin for three days.  And here, my friends, is where the luck comes in.  As the time passed along, I met with my small group, the 3 other aspiring writers, and our fearless leader Dianna Aston. Slowly, I began to realize that my drivel, while, very much still drivelly, was what had gotten me into that particular group.  And that particular group, was exactly where I wanted and needed to be.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that the other small groups with their own fearless leaders would have been stunning as well.  And should I have had last week’s experience with them, I would be walking a different and no less valuable path right now.  But the way our group worked out, the dynamic of support and calm and ease, and the inspiration that Dianna provided, worked for me like the promise of a trip to Wonkaland.  Not to mention an extremely motivating fear that without a great change in my writing, I would leave camp with four lovely people thinking I was a complete nutcase.

In three short days, I was able to whip this thing that had started out loathsome into something that even I could see was on the road to somewhere. It was incredible. Besides all the goodness that came from many different spokes of last week's wheel, the pressure to push myself harder, to strive for better work, to cram in as much writing as humanly possible each day, all melted my brain a little bit and allow for the reforming of the artistic pathways.  Connections were formed within my own spirit, and between us nature-loving humans, that have given me great pause for gratitude.

I still write drivel.  But today I remember that I am capable of sitting down and editing that drivel to make it something slightly more worth reading.  I can call upon friends, old and new, to ask for help and guidance. I can also look back on these inspired few days, and remember the path on which I want to be.  And so, here I go. 

But it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck along the way.

1 comment:

Sue Heavenrich said...

The Highlights Foundations Workshops are indeed awesome, and a great place to meet writerly friends and to learn that every piece of writing begins with drivel.....
Thanks for sharing your story.