I ended up going to Potlatch even in the midst of baby-induced exhaustion because we had some money with Southwest that we were going to lose if we didn't spend it. And also because I have been feeling really lonely and my poor writerly self has been starved for attention and air-time. I figured that the energy expended in getting us all up there would probably pay off handsomely in an emotional boost from hanging around with people who were eager to talk to me and from having a chance to talk about writing and geek out about books.
Things started off badly, though. I spent Friday night re-introducing myself to people I had met at previous conventions who had been eager to talk to me before but had completely forgotten doing so and now seemed to kind of want to edge away from me. (I'm wondering if I was giving off an exhausted/desperate vibe? Or maybe it's because I've gained about 20 pounds and quite a few wrinkles and don't look as cute anymore? I know that sounds awful, but I think most people unconsciously respond to conventionally-conceived beauty. On a total side note, several weeks back, I noticed that I was totally obsessing about the way my body looks, against all my rational beliefs and convictions. Like seriously I couldn't stop bashing my looks in my own head and being all disgusted with myself. And then I finally was like, What the fuck? I have to figure this out!
So I did a bunch of chanting and realized that I was super lonely and somehow I had some fucked-up emotional wiring that was skipping my bayain and just concluding that if I was lonely it must be because of being fat and that of course I had to solve the being fat problem and of course the way to solve being fat is hating your body. So messed up, right? Figuring out what was going on helped break the obsessing.) Anyway, back to my main story. So no one seemed to really want to talk to me, and then I had a couple of minor interactions that made me feel really unwelcome (not that anyone was actually un-welcoming me, it just made me feel that way).
So I went up to my room and plunked the baby on the floor with some toys and cried. Then I sat down to chant, because I didn't want to waste the whole day feeling like crap. While chanting, I figured out that everything was hitting me extra hard because I was afraid that I could never be the writer I want to be, that I could never actually figure out how to get the beautiful stories I can imagine down onto paper. And being at Potlatch had made me remember how much I really, really want to tell those stories.
Shortly after that, I got to have dinner with wild_irises
, Nisi Shawl, and Suzy Charnas. It was a wonderful dinner. Exactly what I was hoping to get out of Potlatch--great conversation with interesting people who like me! Then I got to have a one on one conversation with w_i, wherein I related all my suffering about writing. She had some great ideas (like letting the part of me that thinks I'm awesome have a mental dialogue with the part that's afraid that I just suck too much to accomplish anything), great encouragement (she says she thinks I have talent and that she thought the one story of mine that she's read was a good story), and great advice (that I ask some writers who write in the way I want to write how they know whether their work is good).
Then I went to this awesome, awesome poetry reading "moderated" by Eileen Gunn. I went because Nisi Shawl was reading and I love her fiction. Her poetry was amazing--and, bonus!, so was the poetry of the other two women reading. I mean, it was /all/ really great stuff. And then there was this great discussion that included the audience. One of the poets, JT Stewart, struck me as a real master; she's been writing and teaching for decades. She asked the audience if anyone had questions about the writing of poetry, as opposed to the meaning of the poems that had been read. So I went ahead and asked, "How do you know when your work is good?"
She had the most amazing answer, which I can't entirely remember because it was metaphorical and spiritual and, well, an answer that a poet would give. But I can remember two bright points from it--the first, it was the first thing she said, was to not ask that question-is it good or bad--but rather to ask 'what is working in this poem?' or 'why does this poem work?' She said that the first question is useless and eats away at your self-esteem (which is totally true for me!) The other thing she said that I remember is that if you are a person with "antennae" that pick things up from around you, you have to take it in, transform it (she referred to Ovid's Metamorphosis), and then give it back out. That things like that aren't meant to stagnate within you, that you can't just receive it and keep it; that's selfish. Every thing she said resonated with me so deeply.
Then after the programming ended, she spent quite a while with me one on one talking about poetry and rhythm and oh my god I am so inspired to write poetry now. I bought the new Aqueduct Press book of feminist poetry they were all reading from. It looks great. I've read the first poem and it's by Ursula Le Guin and it's great. You all should buy this book! I will hunt down a link eventually, I hope. JT is a remarkable woman and if you all ever get a chance to talk to her at Wiscon or something, you totally should.
Then I ventured back to the consuite briefly (briefly bc Spouse had txted to say that the baby would probably need my boobs soon and could I please get to the room /before/ the screaming for milk started). At the consuite people wanted to talk to me! And I met a writer who was at about my level and had a great conversation about writing! And we swapped emails because we're both looking for crit buddies!
And on top of all that, today when I went to the Aqueduct table to buy the poetry book (and Timmi's new short story collection, yay! And Redwood and Wildfire, which I had been all sad to miss at Wiscon last year, yay!) I had this really fantastic conversation with Timmi about her work. And then I asked her about feeling like is it even worth it to work on this? And she also had great things to say. She said first that every writer pretty much has to do that work, every time they sit down to write. And that was great, to frame that struggle with the question as part of the work of a writer, rather than some stupid thing I do because I suck on even this new meta-layer. Also it made me feel kind of better that even Timmi, who has this whole body of amazing work as evidence that, yes, she probably can pull it off, that even she still has to do that work. And TImmi had practical suggestions, too! She suggested that I have some piece of music that I reserve for just before I write, like a cue to my imaginitive brain that it's time to work. And she suggested that I give myself plenty of time to daydream, and do something with my hands while I do it. And then when I told her that the dreamy part I totally have down, it's getting the thing into a story that I struggle with, she suggested that I let the words get starting /while/ I'm daydreaming. She also had this great metaphor of throwing a bunch of balls in the air, but then writing from /inside/ that place of holding all the balls, not from the outside kind of analytically looking at the balls. She said that if you do it from inside, you intuitively know what comes next. And maybe this sounds super weird the way that I'm writing it down here, but it made PERFECT SENSE when I heard it. Like, something totally clicked.
I am so excited for a chance to sit down and try this stuff out. I'm not sure how I will exactly swing that now that I'm back to real life and not con-space. But maybe I'll figure something out.
Speaking of re-entering regular life, it was interesting driving home. I noticed that the landscape and images of the drive from the freeway to my house now have a total association of loneliness for me. I hadn't realized how sort of laquered on, day by day, that emotional experience has been. But today, at least, it was kind of nice because I could feel the loneliness in the scenery, but I felt sort of wrapped in the last trailing clouds of friendship from the con, so it was kind of buffered. Sort of like standing outside in a cold wind but having a blanket to wrap yourself in.