Saturday, May 14, 2005

I have been meaning to write about the Flux Factory "Novel" installation, but I haven't quite been able to sort out my feelings about it. Here is the jist of the project:

At 9pm on May 7th, 2005, three novelists will be enclosed within three individual habitats designed and constructed by three teams of architect/artists. For thirty days, this will be their reality. Nightly, they will dine together (courtesy of a revolving cast of chefs). Public readings of the novels-in-progress will be held every Saturday evening, with viewing hours throughout the week. In June, each writer will emerge from his or her habitat having completed a novel.
I imagine being inside this habitat for a month, and feel both claustrophobic and exposed at the thought of it. It seems like a writerly zoo, like being in a cage, on display. A writer monkey. At the same time, part of me feels a bit jealous of these writers--one month with nothing to do but write.

I have participated in National Novel Writing Month twice. I was able to--barely--cross the 50,000 word finish line both times within those 30 days, and these were Novembers full of distraction (including Thanksgiving!) If I didn't have to take kids to school, karate, etc., imagine how much writing could get done! Plus, I think I'm feeling nostalgic for the time when all I did was write. I am doing a lot of teaching now, and I absolutely love it--it is more gratifying than I can express; I love my students; I love helping people find their voices, hone their craft, push their creative envelopes; I am learning so much in the process, myself--but I am finding it harder to find time for my work. To be isolated for a month could be very fruitful. But I would miss my family terribly. And then there is that issue of being on display, which I think could be very inhibiting to the creative process (unless you are someone like Laurie Stone, who I've taken a seminar with, and who freely admits to being a bit of an exhibitionist. I am glad she's one of the three novelists in the project--she's the perfect candidate for it.)

My friend (and former student), Alexander Sellers, an amazing writer, shared his experience of being on writerly display at a recent festival in BC. It was only for a couple of hours, but it sounds like it felt like an entire month...

In a 48 hour period, 24 of us in the "Vicious Circle" (the Whistler Writing Group) participated in this "Experimental Novel" with each writer climbing into an old 1970's style steel 4-person gondola that'sbetter suited for two people, the gondola being about a third the size of a Smart Car. And it's the "International Snowboard Festival" week in town to cap off the season. So the gondola's placed in the middle of the village and each writer works like a goldfish in its bowl with tourists - drunkards- locals whoever looking into the gondola as you work. That's bad to be sure. But when I wrote, it was HELL!! Less than fifteen feet from the gondola, they set up a half-pipe and had a Skateboard competition/exhibition with all the loud - LOUD - Loud - LOUD Hipster-Gangster Rap BOOM - BOOM you could Imagine Blaring!!!!! Holy Shit what a Nightmare!!! Kids beating on the gondola, gawkers of every sort.... The point was to take up where the person who went before you left off, and you could bring in notes or story and copy off if you wanted [which is what I did] but the intent was to be spontaneous. But I couldn't. I put on Headphones playing Beethoven's 9th as followed that with Mozart's unfinished "Requiem" but that didn't drown out the incessant pulse of the BOOM-BOOM like they'd set the gondola over the beating heart of Mother Earth. I couldn't think, and so could only copy my first draft notes and pray for the two hours to end. Might I suggest you never make yourself a goldfish in a bowl for writing publicity... It's Hell!! But I'll always remember it with a smile on my face, though I'll never do it again!)
I think a writers' retreat/colony, like MacDowell or Hedgebrook, would be the perfect compromise--dedicated time to write, without the sense of being in a goldfish bowl. One of these days, I may have to apply...

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