Week 42: Write or Die

I am back from 10 days at Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Sewanee, Tennessee. This is my second residency at my most beloved writing place. And I have tried to write about it, the magic, the people, the inspiration, the sunrise, the sunset, the hammock, the bluff, the pond, the calm, the dark, the deer, the gardens, the tires on gravel, the hooting of owls, the strange power of Percy’s perch. I was intensely productive and reflective; I reconnected with my Rivendell family; I sat and listened and absorbed.

The view from Rivendell
The view from Rivendell

But that’s just it. The experience is almost too personal to write about. So, I thought about something I learned about my writing while I was there. Among the other work I accomplished, I finished a short story I have been rewriting and rewriting so much so that the story is indistinguishable from its origin. I thought: maybe I will write about whether or not a story is the same if characters and conflict and setting changed.

I usually abandon a story if it isn’t working. I will finish it; I am the type who must finish things. But then, if I don’t feel good about it or if the story gets rejected by a round out to journals, I bury the thing in an unmarked grave. Done. It’s over.

Hananah has single-handedly kept me from ditching the story I rewrote, yet again, at Rivendell. She has ordered me not to give up. She has read draft after draft. She has Schutt-ed it clean. And so, I considered blogging about the process of rewriting.

And then I thought, who cares? I’m in one of those moods where a discussion of craft feels disingenuous. I just want to be back in my Rivendell studio, on the window bench with a pillow and cup of tea, lost in my focus on a story. That is its own high, and, I realize, the reason I write.

The writing studio
The writing studio
My nest in the writing studio
My nest in the writing studio

I usually hate that question: Why do you write? I’ve considered all the normal answers most people give.

To entertain.
To share a message.
To make sense of the world.
To live forever.

But none of those ever felt true. They are not why I write. Perhaps, they are why I revise, but they are not why I write. Writing is a type of high. When you are fully engaged and lost in a story, everything else is blocked out. It is total escape from the world.

Of course, I’m writing about the world. How can it be escape? Well, like reading, we immerse ourselves into another world. Perhaps we learn something about our own in the process. I think it’s why I hike. A trail demands attention, both to navigate it and appreciate it. It’s why I am flirting with fly fishing. I love how it requires movement and patience as I try to trick the fish with a fly. All other thoughts are driven out. My senses are heightened. I am escaping the world by plunging deeper into it.

In the hammock with _Bird By Bird_.
In the hammock with _Bird By Bird_.

Maybe I write because I’m addicted to the high. Maybe I’ll die if I stop, like my body won’t handle the withdrawal. Maybe I’m full of it. I don’t really know. But while at Rivendell, I read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and this stuck out:


I get it.

I get it.

I get it.


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