The Door

I haven’t been sleeping very well. Actually, I don’t tend to sleep well. It tends to take a while for me to fall asleep, and then once I do, I wake myself up by laughing, nightmares or the odd snore. (Although my partner may tell you a different story, that I am a deep sleeper never quite hearing the dog in need of a walk.)
Throw in a very intensive residency where your day essentially begins at 7:30 A.M. with breakfast and ends with the last reading around 9:30 P.M, and you can imagine the amount of processing that occurs. My mind chatter is on overdrive. Around and around the same tape plays as if it is on one of those continuous loops. I can see who is essentially freaking out. I’ve seen this part of me before – my Fragile Artist. 
My Fragile Artist is small, a little larger than the stem of a maple leaf. What she has to say is much bigger than herself, but, there are many moments that she isn’t sure how to let herself be heard. For, in her life, there were times when her voice was silenced because she was a woman, or because it wasn’t politically acceptable, or, because a teacher believed that what she said didn’t have value. So, she curled up in the leaf and went to sleep. Not an uncommon story for a fragile artist, but it is still mine. 
My piece was discussed in workshop this morning. Given how up close and personal that my Fragile Artist was, I wanted to figure out a way to protect her. Plus, I had come here to learn about the craft. I had some questions about the narrative and structure of my piece and I wanted to be open and willing to hear what was said without worrying about getting defensive or upset. 
By the way, with this group, I didn’t have to worry at all. They are positive and helpful and the things they brought up were informative and useful. I can see what are the kinds of things that I need to to make this novel work and I’m thankful for them for that. But, it wasn’t them that was the issue…it was me. I needed to figure out how to get out of my own way so that I can use the opportunity to my full advantage.
I remembered some of the things that I did in Banff. I also read in front of my peers last night to get that component out of the way and to allow one of my characters to speak. I chose something that wasn’t even going to be in the workshop, but a piece that I liked. 
But, it was the exercise that I did this morning that really helped me stay present for the workshop and leave feeling good about the experience without replaying the entire experience and making myself crazy. It was a technique that I suddenly remembered from my TAC days and hadn’t needed to use it in a long time, but, I’m grateful that at that moment, I pulled it out of the box of memories and used it. 
I centered myself, deeply breathing in warmth and light. I imagined that I was surrounding myself with white light, cleansing myself from the negativity and mind chatter that was keeping me back. I focused on my Fragile Artist. I saw her sort of shivering in the corner. I imagined myself saying to her: “It is okay, see that double door there, go and rest there. I will come get you when its over.” I then imagined two wooden doors and she went inside and I imagined that she went for a peaceful sleep. 
It completely worked. I was able to engage in the discussion happening around me with a quiet distant. I could listen with an open mind and, perhaps, heart, to what was being said around the table. 

When the workshop was over, I went into my room, put the manuscript notes on the shelf for a little while, closed my eyes and coaxed my Fragile Artist out. I told her that it was safe for her to come out. The danger was gone. And, although I’m pretty tired now. (Probably in need of a good night’s sleep!) And, although, I know that there is work to do (work that I want and I am ready to do.) I found a way to not only compassionately protect myself, but, to get out of my own way.


About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
This entry was posted in VCFA, Writing, Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Door

  1. Mimi says:

    Really love this post!

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