Friday, June 22, 2007

Collaboration & Creativity: Two Writers Discuss Finding the Time, Energy & Curiosity to Keep Going

Curious George and Jacquie
Mary MacGowan

Regardless of how busy I am, I write poems at the average couple's lovemaking rate: 1-2 per week. I do this not through sheer force of will but mostly out of curiosity. I keep writing and/or revising, day in, day out, because I don’t know how to not write and/or revise. Really. I mean it. My curiosity would probably, literally, kill me.

If I don’t write, then I won’t know what could have happened. And maybe, if I had chosen not to write that night or that day or that moment, then maybe – if I had written at that time – then maybe I would’ve gotten the next poem “right.” Maybe I would’ve been close. Maybe I would’ve surprised myself. Who knows what I could miss.

Maybe my poems get written inside of me, and they will stay there forever unless they become words on paper. And yes, maybe it’s okay to carry around unwritten poems for the rest of my life, but if that’s the case, then I won’t get to know those poems. And they are my biological parents – I can get through life all right never having met them – hey, my adoptive parents are very nice and loving. But I’m just so curious! I just want to know what they look like, and if they look anything at all like me. I think they do. I think they look like me. But first I have to put them on paper to find out.

If I start a new poem in the evening, I print it out and take it to bed with me where I read it and make changes before I fall asleep. Then, in the morning, I plod over to my computer to type the changes. Then I email the poem to myself so I can see it while I’m at work. Then I send it to Jacquie, my soul-poetry-mate.

I’ve never met Jacquie and she hasn’t met me, either. That was a joke. Considering my previous poetic inner voice confession, you probably think Jacquie is a another delusion. But she’s not, she’s a very real person I met (online) through the MFA in Writing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University. And that is not a joke. We email each other almost every day to exchange poems and stories. We are brutally honest with each other. We challenge and edit and get stuck and solve problems. We loudly celebrate success with typographic symbols and plenty of exclamation marks. And we will probably never meet in person, because our relationship would probably promptly lose its magic.

Mary MacGowan's bio:
“Regardless of how busy I am, I write poems at the average couple’s lovemaking rate: 1-2 per week. I do this not through sheer force of will but mostly out of curiosity: What will I write next? And how close will I come to saying it right?”


About Wigs
Karen Hausdoerffer

Wednesday, two o’clock, and my co-teacher and I pose in front of the thrift shop mirror, trying on used wigs. Platinum blond. Ink black. Hot-pink. These are the discount wigs, tangled and balding like animal pelts. Tonight we will play “The Price is Right” with our adult, English as a Second Language students, and we want hair to compliment our bridesmaid-dress costumes. By the time we purchase our selections, it’s past three, and time to prep the rest of my lesson. I’ve missed my writing time again.

After finishing my MFA, I began teaching ESL, thinking the flexible hours would give me space to write. But my writing times often fill with lesson planning. The potential hours of preparation expand limitlessly, and the rewards for good lessons come immediately. Tonight, when our students jump out of their seats shouting numbers in English, I’ll fill with adrenaline. On writing afternoons, I work alone, sending off stories to magazines I won’t hear back from for months.

I know why I let these writing afternoons slip away; the question is, why block off the times at all? When I was a teenager, I daydreamed that my writing would help people politically. Now I understand that even when I achieve publication, my audience is small and generally like-minded. If my goal is to help people, maybe I should pour myself exclusively into this job serving immigrants.

Driving home, transformed into a platinum blond, I am not thinking about my students, though. I’m thinking about wigs: wigs as costumes; wigs for women with cancer; plastic wigs; wigs from human hair, itchy wigs in winter; hot wigs in the summer; the black wig that transformed my co-teacher’s face into a stranger’s. I begin fiddling with the first line of a story about small-town teenagers with wigs.

Why create time for writing? Ideas for the story flood me with energy, distinct from the energy of teaching. I want to see language and stories not just as practical skills for surviving in America, but as the source of this feeling of creation. And I want to live in a world where people keep making stories and poems, regardless of where the words go after they are written.

Karen Hausdoerffer lives and writes in Gunnison, Colorado, one of the coldest towns in the country. She teaches English as a Second Language to adults, and to families with small children. She also teaches writing and Spanish at Western State College. *******************************************

No comments: