Five Years

I never did take those trapeze lessons.

It's not even a regret, not really. I had all these outside plans, things I was going to do during my free time at Clarion. One of them was take trapeze lessons. My friend Sarah was reasonably local to the area (I stayed with her for a few days before the workshop started), and she took a trapeze class, and it sounded fun. (Also, it sounded terrifying, but so did pretty much everything else I was going to do that summer - drive halfway across the country to live with 17 people I'd never met and learn how to write.)


It's been five years. If we were traditionalists, we'd give each other wood. The modern gift is silverware. I'm not sure quite how five years of giving each other stories fits with either, but that's what we've done. Stories and plays and poems and dances and five years of making lives art. 


I applied to Clarion because my life basically exploded. All of a sudden, I didn't know who I was, or what I was doing. If I had actually thought I had a chance, I wouldn't have tried. (I know. My logic could use some work.) Thinking back, I'm still not quite sure what I was expecting. Probably that it would be something like school. It wasn't. 

But I got to Clarion, and while I was there, I learned how to write. And how to rewrite. How to pick stories apart, exquisite corpses on anatomists' tables, and how to reanimate them. How to kill darlings and when to close doors and at least ten stupid plot tricks. I learned that even a seagull will not eat a squid patty, and that, at some point, everyone will write a story with tentacles in.

I remember the first time a writer I admired told me I could write. I remember the first time a writer I admired told me I could write better, and that that was the moment I knew I was a writer.


I often think about my writing process as working without  a net. Like, if I just fling myself through space hard enough, with enough belief, I can keep myself up through sheer force of will.

I remember a conference, with one of my instructors, where I said that. And said that I was scared. Scared of falling. And being scared of falling had made my writing tentative, had made it less. I knew that.

The hardest thing I do is open the page and jump. And I never did take trapeze lessons. Still, somehow, I learned to fly.