Friday, February 29, 2008


Writing's coming hard these days for all kinds of reasons, so I'm conveniently attaching this email I sent to a few friends who asked about my Soapstone experience. It's been a month and I'm starting to process it some.

For some of you, this may be info you have no interest in, so just skip it. Some of you might be curious, so read on if you feel like it.

Here it is:

I have to say the experience was very strange. (Remember how you felt like the Squaw Valley Writer's Workshop 'broke you' for a while, Jessica? I'm feeling that way now about Soapstone, but for slightly different reasons.)

I honestly wrote very little while there, which I found frustrating -- all but 2 (?) 3 days (?) were spent kind of paralyzed. (I did revise and sell the Perspectives piece, and worked with momsrising, CDF, etc., but still...!)

Here's my Lame-o list:
  • I was processing my grandfather's death (I said goodbye to him the weekend before; he died the night I got there). Wrapped up in that were images of my father's death 15 years ago. So I felt very unfocused on my story or essays -- and felt like a little of the fun of the experience had shifted. I couldn't have foretold it, either, but processing a loss only made those warm, life-affirming hugs from my kids feel so far away.
  • Mick also felt far -- he was very encouraging to me (in fact, he talked me through some blocks), but he had/has a lot of his own stress going with dental school finishing up right now -- and it's time to start working on applications, and thinking about practice, moving, new schools, change, etc. (Why didn't I just cancel amid this? I couldn't come up with another date I could do this during 2008, so I took what I could get. I knew I'd regret canceling, and I didn't want to live with that.)
  • Oh! And it was way cold! Snowing, freezing, storming, etc.! I'm from the PNW, but I think I've gone a little soft. :) I could see my breath in my cabin for two hours each morning as I stoked the wood stove, and walks along the logging route were a bit windy and nippy! (I did get to the coast -- note photo of "Goonies" rock -- on one of the milder days.)
  • My housemate was nice but VERY vocal about her own daily (hourly?) writing magic that she felt deep in her bones. She gave me unsolicited updates on word counts, etc. (silent scream).
  • I think somewhere in there the writing process slid from fun and playful to strenuous and serious. I've never written well under those circumstances. (Term papers and my thesis come to mind.)

Don't I sound like a wimp? See why I haven't said much???

Here's the thing, though. I DO think I learned some valuable lessons that stemmed from identifying what's playful and too serious in my writing process, and how when inspiration hits it's divine, and how the pieces of the puzzle sometimes end up fitting together in ways we can't foresee. It was good for me to suffer for a while to learn this about myself and the writing process -- and to perhaps be more generous or patient with myself/it than I've ever thought to be. (Being patient is REALLY hard for me.)

I'm sure I've neglected many details; and I encourage anyone who's so inclined to apply if 2 weeks alone in a cabin on a creek sounds fabulous. I'll give more scoop on that if you're curious. Who knows? I might apply somewhere sometime again soon -- I'm willing to open myself up to new and bizarre lessons.

I'll attach some pictures that might portray a little more 'magic' than my report offers. :) I hope I don't sound too lame. It really was a good experience, but for different reasons than I would've anticipated. (Which reminds me why I usually try to live by that old motto about low expectations...)


My cabin, the one with the cube on top; my housemate's
cabin is right next to it, with the pointed roof.

Above: in a dusting of snow. Even on days without snow,
the weather was still usually below freezing.

Above: Haystack Rock of Goonies fame.

Above: between our cabins, the hot tub. I used it twice.

At the woodshed.

One last detail: the kids were wonderfully taken care of by Jan. Two weeks was a long time for them to be apart from me, though (and me from them). I really felt how deeply we missed each other around day ten. I know we all would've been fine if I'd packed it up then. Even if I'd been creatively juiced up, I could tell they felt it was just really long.


Anonymous said...

Ah, sweet Anjie,
So pleased I could be a positive part of your experience.
Patience is a tough one. I've learned to cultivate a bit of it over the years. Whether that's good or not, I'm not sure.
You know your book is something you have a passion to write. That passion is what's going to make it happen. Keep on keeping on.

Anonymous said...

Good work Anj. I can't wait to talk w/ you more about this... in person!! See you in April friend,

Anonymous said...

You rock sister, no worries. I think when your world settles down a bit, you'll find clarity and a new sound to your voice. I'm also glad to see you giving your time at Soapstone credit. Perfectly productive? Maybe not. But a good experience nonetheless AND a credit to your writing and accomplishments that you were given the opportunity. It will come again. love ya. K

Natalie N said...

I hear ya about term papers etc.... and I'm not even a good writer! Soapstone sounded like it was a unique experience. I didn't realize that you were in a cabin and all that stuff. Very cool. You've got talent, and I can't wait to hear your next piece of work. Take care!