I arrived in Provincetown yesterday by ferry to attend a one-week fiction workshop with Pam Houston at the Fine Arts Work Center. We had orientation last night and a brief meeting with our workshop group, which is wonderfully small. She asked us to introduce ourselves, talk about a piece of writing we thought was success, give her one word that described our writing and tell her a song that we wouldn’t mind being stuck on a desert island with.The word I chose to describe my writing as of late was “volcanic,” because lately it seems like I’m spewing out a lot of content and it’s a big hot mess! (As for the song, I would chose “This Tornado Loves You,” by Neko Case. I seem to have natural disasters on the mind!)
I asked Pam why she teaches and she said that she spends a lot of her writing time focused on herself, thinking about worlds that have mostly have to do with her, since her work is largely autobiographical, and teaching is a way to do the opposite. It’s all about balance.
That’s one of the reasons I’m here — to achieve some balance, albeit in the other direction. At home, I don’t spend the kind of time I would like to focused on my writing. Like many aspiring writers, I have a full time job and other commitments that leave only about a couple of hours (if I’m lucky) a day to write. During this one luxurious week, all I’ll do is talk about writing and write. I’m already inspired by my spacious, but spare apartment. It feels perfect suited for writing, as if it were designed for it. Light pours in from six big windows and the sparse accommodations allow for no distractions. A small table by one of the windows gives me a view of the harbor and a wonderful seat for contemplation and composition.
The volcano still rumbles, but for now it’s not being destructive.
Wish me luck.