Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My happy mess

Ten days in already?    The minor frenzy continues in my life, despite a blissful trip to a sunny beachfront retreat and another beach trip on the books a couple weeks out.  The writing time has been crammed in here and there in a very unsatisfying way.  And yet... I seem to have written a pretty decent personal essay.  How'd that happen?

I arrived at my writing group a bit nervous to share the piece that had been cobbled together from old and new writing in a rush the day before.  The essay felt chaotic and flittery to me as if I were jumping from subject to subject without ever getting down to business.  But they felt it was solid, nearly ready to be sent out into the world.

I was reminded of the rare occasion during my MFA program when I would hand in a story that had a similar air of chaos about it.  The chaos was almost always good for the story.  I needed to lose control while creating to get at the truth.  And while I'm a fairly easy-going person in all other aspects of my life, the control freak in me often rears her ugly head when I sit down to write.

Here is where I fall in love with the personal essay.  The truth is already there.  I don't have to hide it in the dialogue of a twenty-five year old waitress or the longings of a middle-aged executive.  The truth is what actually happened (or at least my version of what happened).  That frees me up to follow ideas and images and the language itself without worrying about whether it's true to the character I've built from my imagination.  Chaos can reign and yet I don't have to worry about losing myself entirely.  I am here.  I can always come back to me.

This post is kind of out of control itself.  A bit of a mess.  But I won't try to correct it.  I'm going to ride this out and see where it goes.