The Kenyon Review Writers Workshop was a wonderful experience and I wouldn't give it back for a million sunsets. It was unique for me in its Workshopness, in the fact that I could attend. As a graduate of Kenyon College, the campus is a safe-haven for me, like Base during a game of tag. While there, I feel as if I am under some otherworldly protection, immune to any of the anxieties that may plague me in the outside world. Kenyon has that sort of spell. I call it The Kenyon Effect. Any workshop anywhere else would have me revoking my tuition two days before the start.
David Lynn was a wonderful instructor. With his tutelage, I gained the respect for writing literary fiction while there. But I must have been The Kenyon Effect. It allowed me to attack real humans and their problems with poetry and precision, making me passionate for that visceral reality that only literary fiction can give.
But here I sit, with this beautiful concept of a story in front of me. It is timely, it is tangible, its characters leaping off the screen and trying to rope me in - and each day I remove the lasso and walk away. Nope.
At first I thought it was depression. But it wasn't. Then I thought it was the anxiety surrounding my sister's wedding. It's over now, and was better than something Walt Disney could have dreamed up. So I sat down at the computer again, ready to work. It wasn't the wedding either.
I read the story over, made some edits. One elbow on the table, chin in my hand. I sighed, I looked at my watch. I took too many cigarette breaks. I checked my email after every paragraph. And then I asked myself, "What's wrong here? Is it me? Or is it the story?"
It isn't the story. The story needs to be told, just not like this. I can't write literary fiction. I have no passion for it. There's no magic in it. Nothing otherworldly happens. It's not mired in historical fact. Nothing horrific happens. Nothing thrilling. Nothing but the sore truth of reality, with a dash of literary merit. And I realized that I'd failed you, David Lynn, and I'm sorry.
I need to be excited about what I'm writing. I can't chain myself to this table and roll my face on the keyboard until I come up with something publishable. I don't have that kind of patience or talent. There's the adage that however many monkeys handcuffed to however many typewriters can come up with Shakespeare, and I am sure whoever said that thought they were very clever, but I want to meet these monkeys. They must be amazing. Because millions of writers on millions of keyboards won't ever reach Shakespeare's caliber of notoriety or success. Despite how clever they are, how smart they are, or the quality of their typewriter.
That being said: I really don't want to be Shakespeare. I like the Internet too much.
So maybe tomorrow, after I'm done feeling great about this revelation, I'll look at this story and see how I can transplant these characters to another planet, or to another time. Or maybe throw them into a historical context that makes their situation all the more dire, and then way more interesting to me.
I like the story, it just doesn't speak to me how it is right now. But that doesn't mean it's dead in the water. And as my writer friend said to me: We Meet The Story In The Edits.
So true. Always true.