We don’t owe it to anyone to make our writing nice, or easy, or palatable. Maybe we should start asking ourselves who we’re protecting when we pan away, and why we’re protecting them.
Any writer who takes Henry James’s advice seriously, “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost,” will end up, sooner or later, looking for the hidden story—hidden because nobody was listening for it, and because the water is rising, and because there but for the grace of God go you and I.
“Poems are often these very strange moans. These very impossible efforts toward the innermost pangs. Somehow, the trying to go there gives me hope. To reach down and into. To make your whole language and your whole body move that way.”
The very first night as we sip our muse-inducing elderflower wine, Alexander Weinstein, founder of the Institute, opens the door of the conference room to symbolically cast out our inner critics — those editorial voices in our heads who tell us we’re not good enough, who bring us down, who impose self-doubt.
Sometimes, not often, I’ve found the writing of a story or a novel to resemble Nansen’s smooth and well-planned voyage. Sometimes I know, roughly, where I’m going; sometimes I can also guess the routes by which I might reach that destination. Usually, though, my experience has more closely resembled that of the hapless souls aboard the Tegetthoff.