I only had a few personal conversations with Tracy Daugherty back at Oregon State–a writer I more and more admire lately–and most of the time spent with him was in class or with lectures. I even went to some of his classes without being registered in them just to hear him lecture. But we had a conversation at his house about teaching yourself to write. He told me it took him years to teach himself how to write a novel. I thought about that for a long time–I still think about it.
I think he meant exactly what I am doing–maybe what Kim is doing in her new blog which I am so happy to be following by the way–teaching ourselves how to write like ourselves. Sure we use models–I use them a lot and I feel I wouldn’t have progressed these past few months where I seem to be very productive but I wouldn’t have done it if not for Wallace Stegner’s essays and short stories–I found a few of his books in Colorado Springs this past summer and even some in California last year–at City Lights Book store. I feel if it weren’t for his short stories focused on place I wouldn’t have written Farmhouse in the Lanes–I wouldn’t have pushed myself to think about Blende and Vineland trips with the Grandfather when I was a kid. I wouldn’t have written the chapter about being stuck in the mud– I wouldn’t hve gotten going with my own pplace stories.
So now I think I get it. You have to sit and work it out on your own. We can talk about it all in workshop or in email but we need to get these problems answered for ourselves. Like Hugo writes–the biggest arguments you will have is with yourself.
Or like Lolo said–you only learn by doing, Manito.