Thursday, August 24, 2017

Writing Is My Drink and My 26-Minute Memoir

This summer I had a few precious weeks of more open-ended time that I could spend writing. It was quite terrifying and I felt the pressure to produce after long stretches of go-go-go work and home life. I knew I had to find a way to avoid the self-sabotage of frittering away that all-too-rare time.

In moments like these I cling to my collection of "writer's self-help" resources. One of my go-to books has been Writing Is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. I was particularly inspired (once again) by her description of breaking through a terrible block writing her graduate thesis after reading Virginia Valian’s essay “Learning to Work” from Working It Out: 23 Women Writers, Artists, Scientists, and Scholars Talk About Their Lives and Work. I discovered this long out-of-print book in FIT's library while developing my Creative Imagination honors course over a decade ago. I am so happy that Theo has provided a PDF of Valian's piece on her site.

At the end of one of the chapters Theo gives a prompt for a "26-Minute Memoir" and directs readers to her website for more information. I did the exercise and decided to email Theo my piece, even though she hadn't published any new ones since 2015.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later, Theo wrote back and said she had been thinking of posting them again, and wanted to start with mine!

This morning, on the brink of the Fall 2017 semester, as I prepare to lead my department and teach my students (and support my son, who is now taking classes there), I got an email from Theo with a link to my piece on her website. I am even more terrified--of what it reveals about me as a person, and of what it means to me as a writer. Now I really have no excuse not to do the work. I am learning, thanks to Theo, Virginia, and many others who have done it before me, and to my students who will just be starting this adventure next week.

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