Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Living Life Aware: Residency a Time to Explore Self

Upon returning home to Colorado after several weeks at the Hill House residency, writer-in-residence, Beth Nelson, reflected on her experience through a series of interview questions asked by friend and poet Lee Rossi. Rossi has published interviews with many notable authors including Ed Hirsch, Robert Pinsky, Tony Hoagland, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Ted Kooser, and Kim Addonizio.  His collection of poems, Wheelchair Samurai, is due out in 2011. Following are a series of excerpts from Beth’s responses.  

At the Hill House, I learned to trust my instincts in a new way, a stronger way.  Though some days I spent hours on one paragraph or a single sentence, in general, words flowed from me.  For the most part, I didn’t continually edit myself, but instead, kept moving forward.  There’s plenty of time once the kernel of the story exists to go back and rewrite.  I wanted the Hill House to be a place where I did not judge myself or my writing.  I accomplished this, and I found this trust to be crucial in my creative process.

            In journaling about my writing, I learned a lot about myself and what makes me tick as a writer.  I’d find myself writing about what I‘d done and why I’d done it, or what I thought about certain techniques in writing, and I’d learn—through the journal—things about my process I was not conscious of before.  Once conscious of those things, I could deliberately employ them, or if the “unconsciousness” of the idea was what was crucial, I could let things flow that perhaps I might have edited out in the past. 

A writer’s work is multifaceted:  she must read, write, and most importantly, live life aware.  Living life aware requires many things.  One of the requirements is that of taking what one experiences and ultimately understanding its meaning.  As Wordsworth says: “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” 
The abundant tranquility of the Hill House permitted me to become more aware of who I am: who I am as a writer, a woman, and a human being. 
The more in touch I became with my own deeper Self, the more in touch I became with the inner worlds of my characters.  As I came to understand my own actions, I came to understand the actions of my characters and was able to convey this in my stories.  My stream of consciousness thrived in the unbroken concentration this solitude allowed. How can one not be inspired by an isolated wilderness cabin with a deck overlooking the woods?  There is magic in solitude.   --Beth Nelson


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