Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail.
In 2013, it was talking to Yasar Usta in Istanbul. In 2012, it was using the ocean as a “big toilet” while floating outside Palawan. In 2011, it was my birthday moment. In 2010, it was the success in Journey to the End to the Night.
For this year, I thought hard about the moments I had this year. Or as I learned from Pam Houston’s writing workshop this year, a glimmer. And for this, I want to answer with a glimmer that felt whole, that felt inspiring, that felt complete.
I hesitate to talk about the disappointments and rejections. The way that I had to define my boundaries to protect myself. The way that I had to declare that you know, I really don’t like it. The way that I had to let go of a friend to heal. No, I won’t talk about those.
Rather, it was this meta-glimmer at Pam Houston’s writing workshop. The assignment was to use a perspective that we rarely used (e.g. second person) and a character we rarely embody (e.g. an old man).
By then, the frozen cold of the boat had shocked my bones. In the sun, the windjammer was inviting and adventurous. But as the evening progressed, the daylight disappeared and only the chilled air from the Atlantic remained. The cramped space in boat made everything itchy. The rocking of the boat drummed up nausea. I felt unclean. And my mind couldn’t rest to let the words fall on the page as they usually did.
During the first exercise, my mind turned into mud and the usual stream of ideas did not grow. My creativity was stumped and uninspired.
But suddenly with that assignment, I found hope. My pen moved across the notebook as my mind seized on second person and an older man. I wrote about a father attempting to connect with his two daughters. His desire to do what his own father could never do. The sorrow that dripped through his words over the telephone. The sorrow that was not heard by his daughters as they kept the call short. The way memories of his father’s funeral passed through his mind as he dialed the numbers. And the way how he assured himself that he was a good father.
The words flowed out, but it wasn’t until I volunteered to read my draft to the group that I felt more complete. My voice, as it naturally is, shies away from public performance, but in this glimmer, I increased my volume and sat up from the stoop that I took on the deck. Then I began reading.
“Have you done this before?” Pam said after I finished.
“This is only my second time,” I said.
“It sounds like you know how to write second person,” she said.
Then later, a fellow writer a father himself leaned over and said, “That was so powerful. The most powerful piece I ever read.”
I describe this glimmer not because I want to pat myself on the back, but because of the previous entry. I need to remember that there are times that I can succeed. They do exist.