Friday, July 19, 2013

The Voice of Harry

I learned, many years ago, the hard way but thankfully not too late, to listen to my inner voice. As voices go, I'm rather lucky: Mine speaks in full sentences. I suppose it had to; the single words weren't getting my attention. So when the voice inside me piped up on a Sunday afternoon and said, "Take Harry's workshop," I listened and signed up for the three Tuesday evening sessions.

And this is how it goes. You see the notice for a workshop being held at the Tidnish Bridge Art Gallery -- writing or painting or woodworking -- and you think, "I can't do that on Tuesdays because it's such a long day at work," or "It's too far to drive" or "What will I get out of it?" Then you hear that voice, you do what it tells you and you show up and sit in a chair and think, "Why am I here?"

Then Harry Thurston, award-winning Nova Scotia poet and nature writer, a smart and lovely man, starts to talk and you sit there and listen. Much of what he says in the beginning you already know about: the routine of writing. When do you write? Where do you write?

I already know the answer to those questions, I know the routine, value it, but Harry's words remind me of my best friend, who is an artist, a painter but also a wife and mother so I took notes for her: "the routine is very important - it's the discipline of going to work - your routine, your discipline becomes the discipline of others = your time is your time and they get to know that."

 What I needed came later: the creative writing. I arrived at the workshop feeling overwhelmed by elusive writing goals that consume more energy than they feed back to me, feeling worn down from writing the same way every week. I brought me a deep worry that without practice, the creative part of my writing is being lost.

There were the requisite handouts and introductions and explanations about writing and prose. Then Harry introduced us to the "object poem" which, as a prose poem, consists of two parts: the first section is a description of the object and the second section is the leap -- how you respond to the object: what or who it reminds you of, what memory it evokes, what emotion it brings up.
"It's the details," Harry tells us. "What writing needs are details." 

He quoted Ezra Pound: "No ideas but in things." Meaning focus on concrete details more than big ideas or emotions. Write down all the details of the object then make the leap into its meaning.

On the 35-minute drive home (so not a big deal), I thought of a dozen object poems I could write. I came in the door with the notebook already open and flung myself across the kitchen island in order to write all those ideas down. 

Now I was feeling energized, rejuvenated, inspired, motivated. Even rested.
And there's homework. Harry wants us to complete the second part of the object poem we began in class and to write a page describing a place. So I took advantage of an empty house this morning to immerse myself in two hours of creative writing -- doing something I haven't done in a very long time. Simply because my true self knew what was best for me.


Writers and painters, sculptors, poets, potters all need some professional development, professional connection and stimulation. We need to gather with others who create, who struggle, who struggle to create, and know we aren't the only ones who feel overwhelmed, worn out, scared of losing that spark that sent us to that workshop in the first place. We need to feel the exchange of energy that makes it possible to drive home with a mind racing with fresh ideas. 
I definitely left my fears on the asphalt behind me.

Nova Scotia is full of wonderful, creative people who actually offer up their skills and knowledge and energy to others. Find that workshop, listen to that voice, pay the money. How you'll feel the next day when you wake up that fire blazing inside you once again is more than worth the drive, the time, the effort. 
Don't ignore the voice.

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