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This week, I had to do something I didn’t really feel like doing. I’ll admit it: It was going to the first session of a four-week workshop at the Lighthouse on point of view, led by the inestimable Rebecca Berg.
I had wanted to do it, let’s be clear, and I knew I’d want to do it again. But you know that feeling, just after a quick dinner, when you have to haul your butt out of your chair, get back in the car, and go? And you’d rather just lie on the couch reading a book or maybe catching up on important current affairs programs, such as “Project Runway”? Yeah, that feeling.
But I hauled myself out the door. Embarrassingly, I almost yawned a couple of times in class, not from lack of interest, but rather from too many sleep-deprived, late-working nights in the past two weeks. At this moment, I’m a bit overwhelmed with life’s responsibilities—work, family, volunteer commitments, another intense workshop, and of course, writing a book. Yeah, that feeling.
Rebecca talked us through our readings, through the gist of the class, and shared a surprise from an early master of POV rule-breaking (who was it? Ernest Hemingway!). The discussion was interesting, but afterward, I didn’t linger for post-class chit-chat. I was exhausted and had promised myself to go straight home to bed to make up for that sleep deprivation. That was nice, I thought. I’m not sure how much I got out of it, though, or how it’s going to apply to the memoir I’m writing.
I crossed the street briskly and opened my car door. What would it be like if my first memoir—the one I ponder revisiting after I finish my current project—had a different POV for each of the main characters? I figured I’d just note that thought when I got home. I climbed into the car and fired up the engine. I sat at a stoplight, waiting for a pedestrian, waiting to turn left.
Hey, I thought. I wonder if … and like a thunderbolt, I had a new idea for the second chapter of my memoir. (The chapter where my self-critique of my first draft was: “Revise! This sounds like a story someone’s boring grandma would tell.”) I mused all the way home, grabbed my laptop when I came in, and started jotting the first few lines. An hour-plus later, I had 600 words, and the next day I had churned out eleven pages, moving gracefully* from POV to POV with renewed energy for trying to show a story that thus far has been drily didactic to tell.
Has this ever happened to you? When you just showed up at a workshop, or a class, or a writing group, or your page for that matter, seeing it as an obligation more than a joy, and then blammo! everything changed? It’s happened to me too many times to count.
Because when is a workshop not just a workshop?
*Please, let me sustain this illusion until I reread the draft.