Beneath the moon
Beside an ancient lake
Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
Come with us
Everything is broken up and dances.
- Jim Morrison
I've taught writing for seventeen years. I teach in the same way I write. There is an open space. There are impulses and longings. The way opens ahead of us. The writing takes hold of us and makes itself. Much breaks up.
Making. Nothing exotic. Making stories, making art, making bread, making shelves, making the broken whole, making the filled empty and the empty full, making love---all making is making love. A new student waits till the end of the writing class I teach to ask his question: "How do you write a novel? How do you know what to do?" A veteran student grins. She knows what I'll say. We have just finished writing about houses and mountains and the razor's edge.
"You write a novel the same way you just wrote. You put the tip of the pen on the paper, or your hands on the keys and you start. Every day, every other day, once a month, you keep going."
The new student tucks his notebook in his pack and laughs. "I was afraid you'd say that."
Driving home--delicate light threaded along the western horizon, night pouring over me, my heart content--I think about teaching writing, and I realize that every aspect of my teaching springs from what I know in my heart, what I have learned, and what I was born with. We sit in a circle because I have learned that students ranged in rows with the teacher standing alone in front of them creates a pattern of dis-connection that leaves the students without contact with each other. All attention, all energy goes between each student and the teacher. There is no room for a campfire and, it is in fire's light for time long beyond ours, that stories spring to life.
In our writing circles, I look around and see ten faces behind which a multitude of poems and stories clamor or whisper to be heard---and every other woman or man sees the same limitless view. We write. We read. On this night, I passed around post-cards and photographs. "There's your theme."
Twenty minutes later, we read. Two women, without intention, had crickets leaping in their stories. Another woman told us she made ten beginnings and will not read. "O.k.," I said, and wondered where the words came from, "the razor's edge, a blade, something honed."
The room was silent. I looked around. Ten people bent over their work, pens moving, ink chasing away the blank page. When I called out, "Stop," the pens kept moving. I always love this moment, especially for the students who tell me they have been blocked. They cannot stop.
Then, we read. By the time the new student asked his question about his novel, we had looked around the circle at each other, nodding at a writer's words, being astonished, saddened, moved and humbled. The silence of those who had not read was as full as the sound of those who had. All the Dance.
"Remember," I said, "when you are not writing, your are gathering. Learning to trust the times I couldn't write was the biggest lesson I've had to learn so far."
Whenever I say those words, I see my students' breathing change. Their faces soften. Sometimes, they look down at their notebooks, their pens and I know that what they feel is not the pressure to create, but make love.
Come into a new circle. Beginning Monday, October 5, from 6:30-8:30 at Dudley's Bookstore, I will teach six weeks of writing. There will be nine of you and one of me. More than ten people in a writing circle cheats all of us. You can expect some of what I have written above. You can expect more. I won't know until you tell me what you need how our time together will play out. I charge $120./$80. nonrefundable deposit - happy to explain the "nonrefundable." For more information or to register, 350-1322 or firstname.lastname@example.org There are already three of you signed on.