Sunday, April 11, 2010

Writing lessons.

Some things I learned at AWP, in no particular order:

1. from Michael Chabon, on the question "How do you get your ideas?": "Ideas are the easiest--hence the least interesting--aspect of the job [of the novelist]. Ideas are like the one pound of insects you [apparently] unwittingly ingest every year. They're like the air that we breathe. The hard part is sticking with the ideas when they start to lose their luster."

2. Lidia Yuknavitch, on writer's block, advises ritualizing every minute of every day. She also says she doesn't believe in writer's block. She suggests that what we call writer's block is usually something else--and that if we experience such a thing, we should ask ourselves better questions about what's going on.

3. On digital storytelling, part one: the ur-story for digital stories appears to be, "I never really had a friend--truth be told, I didn't even know what one was."

4. On digital storytelling, part two: "most of our photos are lies--'please look back into the camera and smile.'"

5. On digital storytelling, part three: at the beginning, most digital storytellers want to make "a one-t0-one correspondence between the image and the noun."

6. On the relationship between creative and critical work: "creative work *is* theoretical practice."

7. From Don Stinson's painting "The Necessity for Ruins": ruins are necessary.

8. From Keith Jacobshagen's landscape painting "By June the light begins to breathe": "Face it, landscape painting is a cliche. It's a long history of cliches. The best landscape painters are the ones who have done something interesting with the cliches."

9. From the Denver Art Museum's collection of Decorative Arts: furniture elucidates and enacts a vision of the human body and of human activity.

10. From Campbell McGrath, on the elegy: Elegies are not for the dead, they are for the living, and elegies are really about life.

and a bonus:

11. Nick Flynn, on the elegy: "Looking at the art is cathartic, but writing it isn't. Aristotle doesn't promise catharsis for the makers."

And today, my observance of National Poetry Month resumes.


  1. I believe #1 and #2 are true are true.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I love the idea of the elegy being for the living. But of course! And while I would have disagreed once with the notion that writer's block isn't real, I must say I've decided lately that you SHOULD look at why you're not writing. That just makes sense, too.

    I trust your ensembles caused gasps of admiration.

  3. I love number 7. And 2. Shaping the ordinary through ritual. I want to hear more.



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