Think about the people you know who rock language absolutely—their grammar is instinct. They picked it up from reading, probably while they were paying attention to something else entirely. How much an instructor promises to teach you about craft is no measure of how much growing you will do as a writer under their mentorship. How much you know about craft has no bearing on what you will ever dare to risk letting fly from your own mouth.
In my experience, writers don’t often need the stuff that can be taught. What we need if we want to grow into a place of creative risk-taking is to be blown out of the water of our everyday lives back into our place of instinct. For someone to take it seriously that we need to sound something out in the white space around us. For someone to require us to show up, turn things in, be seen, and keep going. This is the real problem that most writers have: the keeping of the going.
Writing workshops should be a place to arrive at your full size, in your full dimension, and to practice the relationship with sense that you alone can practice. Exercising your voice is nothing short of plugging into a larger self that is uncontained by your body, your narrative, and your name. Your work is what you can put back into the world to make it more real. It’s what you never needed to be taught or tested on to know. My workshops honor those truths.
Writing is an act of reclamation and revolution. It is a dance with power. Coming to full speed, coming to full capacity, coming to the place where you can wield language in a way that changes it forever is facilitated immensely by aligning oneself with a tribe of fellows. I believe in holding my students to a practice that requires writing into every reach of their selves, asking questions that can never be answered, and joining a circle that will keep demanding both pages and presence. I will call on you by name, and press you to the thing you seek contact with. Your job is to show up, and keep showing up.
Building and sustaining meaningful communities for writers has been an all-capitals priority of mine since I moved to California over a decade ago. I do this work because I can’t not. Folks in my workshops have written and published books, entered MFA programs, and done other fancy things, but the thing I’m really proud of is that folks keep coming back. We read and write and imagine ourselves forward. We do it. We show up with all our pieces and hold them to the light. Make sense of sense again. I’m the luckiest person in the world.
A word on terminology: I don’t totally believe in nonfiction, or fiction, or poems anymore. I believe in writing. Forces, tensions, gestures, and relationships, in upward and outward orientations. Physics. The body. Work. If you want to jump in, all you have to do is lift your feet.