twenty pages

A boon of good luck and generosity is giving me an opportunity to attend a weeklong writing festival this summer. The class, about expanding memoir through interviews and research, is for “advanced” writers. This has me a bit scared. Advanced? Am I? It sounds a bit like junior high notions of sex. Like being fast.

I received a letter from the teacher yesterday inviting me to send him twenty pages of my memoir. Given that this book is an idea that currently exists in multiple forms – blog entries, interviews, and ideas yet untested – there are no twenty pages. Not in any kind of coherent form. Not as a living, breathing, single-celled organism.

Twenty pages. Scary, but there’s license in the idea, too. A license to write. A license to explore. And, of course, a license to fail. Expunge that notion, Jennifer. Dive in and play… “Do or do not, there is not try.” “The journey is the destination.”

And so I begin.

Meanwhile, in looking at some of the materials for this project, I came across a quote from Elizabeth Lesser’s Broken Open which quite struck me when I first read it:

“The lesson is not to dwell on whether or not something should be happening to me. …my only hope was to give up the life that had been, in order to make room for the life that is. …Making that choice, over and over again–to accept what is, and to release what was–has become the major focusing agent for my spiritual work.”

Accept the work that burbles within. Accept the soccer cleats in the front hallway and tomorrow morning’s game that will be played in the rain. Accept the mediocre dinner and the kids’ movie that will occur later today. Accept the hot flashes. Accept the lines. Accept the too small bed. Accept the dog and the father, no longer here. Accept the interminable doctor’s appointment with its lack of answers. Accept the fucked up taxes and the trials and tribulations of the ex-husband. Accept the kind faces at yoga on Monday mornings. Accept the daffodils that never came up. Accept the search for a new car. Accept the death of the old one. Accept the passwords you can’t recall. Sink into it all. And begin.

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3 thoughts on “twenty pages

  1. And enjoy the mess of the process! I’m about to start twenty pages too, for a summer writing workshop. And it’s memoir, or personal essay–a newish form for me. This afternoon, part of my plan is to delve into several possible topics (stick to the safer ones, or go toward the messy scary one that I don’t feel ready to write about?) Of course I’d advise a friend to go where she feels the “juice” is, but will I do the same? Hmmm… May it go as it needs to go, and may you find beauty and grace in the process, as I trust you will.

    1. oh boy, that last piece of yours Jennifer, about acceptance. Accept what is, not the dream of what ‘was’ or what mighta/shoulda been. What it, with is freshness and truth and pain and great intense aliveness, is now. Is where we are, yes, thanks again for the reminder to be alive now! Again and again the lesson – the little burmese grandcat, hassling me to let him out, the bills, the tender love for my kids, the frustration, the soft foggy morning coming through today, the fresh bite of winter, the delicious garlicky cheese on toast, all of it!

      lovely inspiring piece thanks!

    2. Enjoy your writing workshop, too, well earned and trust your own wonderful skills. Enjoy spring, lucky things! sounds good.

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