I haven’t posted in…I can’t remember how long. I am going to try to make an earnest effort to post more often now that I have graduated from the MFA program.
On Thursday, I took a road trip with a fellow friend and writer. My short story was published in Central Michigan University’s literary journal Temenos. They asked me to come read and attend the reception of the special print edition of their latest issue. After some much-needed encouraging and financial assistance from my family and colleagues, I decided to take the 14 hour car ride with my friend–because I fear flying.
The reception and reading went well. Regan and the Temenos staff were hospitable and supportive. They treated both my friend and me like literary rockstars. I have never seen a more passionate literary journal staff. They truly care about what they do. During the long car ride, my friend and I solved America’s fiscal crisis, developed a cleaner source of energy (in theory) using baby wipes and rocks, and fixed all of the issues we were having with our novels. We passed more dead carcasses than street signs.
On the ride back from Michigan, my friend and I spoke, at length, about his research on immersion writing. Immersion: deeply involved, engaged; absorption. In short, he believes that, when writing, a writer should be fully consumed by the piece. A writer should not simply research but experience the “topic” on which he is writing. If one is writing about winter, one should experience winter through the senses instead of simply researching temperatures, images, and facts about winter online or in books. It is very similar to a student who must write a paper. If a student is writing an essay about Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, he should not simply read the SparkNotes on the book, but instead read the book itself and take notes. Teachers know the difference between an essay written using SparkNotes and an essay from a student who has read the book.
This made me think more about immersion, in general. When I think of immersion, I can’t help but to think of baptism, and not only the specific Christian act, but the more general process of purification–initiation. In a sense, a writer must be pure of heart. When I say pure, I don’t mean untainted, as that would be impossible. What I mean is that a writer must be, as a poet, pure of purpose and intention. It is easy to allow superficial influences to affect our writing and distract us from our literary purpose.
This weekend, I immersed myself in not just the good writing of others, but the great company of other writers with earnest purposes. (This is why I believe collaborative writing can be so powerful and effective when the right souls join.) I began writing as a poet, and so I love speaking with poets about anything, really. Their sensitivity to the world is unparalleled. I met a poet this weekend whom I think was pure in this way–unabashed honesty and passion–which illuminated many things for me, within me. But it was only through the act of immersing myself in the experience that this could happen. In many ways, I had to surrender.
So take that drive to the town dump to smell the sour garbage, walk through a hospital to hear the screams and medical jargon, and eat sushi so that–well, just eat it. It’s delicious. But ultimately, immerse yourself in the pure, in new experiences and environments. Take a chance. But remember to listen carefully. You might find the answer to a question you never knew you had.