“One of the things that brings me back to writing every day is that I have no idea what I’m feeling, or, what I’m feeling could fill a whole book. I imagine this is true for everyone. Degas, in one of his notebooks, wrote: there are, naturally, feelings that one cannot render.”
Nick Flynn, Atlanta Review
Just a quick five stops on the 2 train and I was right in the middle of the Brooklyn Book Festival yesterday. Ripe with independent book publishers and acclaimed authors, the festival encouraged aspiring writers and devoted bookworms to bounce around all day as they pleased. Our goal was to see five lectures, but we were sufficiently pleased when we decided to stop at three!
I was particularly excited to attend Found: Writers on Loss, a panel led by Nick Flynn and including Mary Williams, Leanne Shapton, Emily Roboteau, and Sarah Manguso. The writers shared varied ideas on loss, yet similar ideas on writing about loss. They spoke about how their personal experience became a catalyst for each of their books and what the writing process was like for each of them. It is interesting how sometimes we see ourselves not by what we have in the present moment, or what we want in the future, but by the sheer presence of loss in whatever reoccuring form that may take in our life.
I like getting to the core of things, the real truth of the matter. This is why I love writers, because they dig for it. They leave no stone unturned – no matter how hard it may be expose what’s undeneath. Nick Flynn said in an interview with Marco Polo Quaterly that “it’s the job of the artist to reveal what other’s have a hard time accessing.” This is why reading about other people’s struggles and losses can be both powerful and enriching.
I also like seeing the side of someone that is less flattering – not the pumped up version posted on facebook for estranged friends and coworkers to see. I am inspired by people who are comfortable being vulnerable, and who in their vulnerability find comfort. If we aren’t talking about the things that move, shake, and rattle us, why are we talking at all? This panel was sincere and humbling, not entirely shocking as it was led by Nick Flynn. (It is said he incorporates meditation and breathing excersises into his writing workshops, which I think is fantastic.) Someone in the audience asked how the writers seperate their grief from creating something people will actually want to read. Mary Williams replied by saying it is their intention (as writers) to reach people with a truth rather then make them feel good about themselves. I loved this, loved everything about it. Isn’t that why we, as readers, read? The point of this blog, which was started a year ago, was to encourage us all to sink below the surface of things, look behind the manicured visage, and essentially have meaningful conversations so we can relate to, grow with, and inspire each other in a way that is profound and reflective. I felt this panel on writing and loss did just that.