Last night we went to see Jeanette Winterson.
It was a last minute decision. I’d just started reading her latest book and checked her website only to see she was here, right up the road, on her 10 city U.S. tour. Right up the road!
(okay, an hour and a half up the road, but still …)
What a treat she was. One of the most entertaining writers I’ve had the privilege to see in person. Brilliant, confident, opinionated, eloquent, and funny as hell. I was so entertained I failed to take notes, so before they escape me here are a few gems for the writers among us:
* Our memories are not clearly defined, nor are they linear. As Margaret Atwood says, we reach down as if through the water for them and they are in perpetual motion, shifting and reflecting, surfacing and diving, reordering themselves — one day a memory comes clear and within reach, and then might disappear, for days or years, beneath the surface. Trust your memories as they come to you. Trust their fluidity.
* New writers make the mistake of trying too hard to write a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The dreaded “arc.” Our best stories are rarely told in perfect order; don’t limit your natural storytelling skills this way.
* There are only three possible endings to your story: Revenge, Tragedy, or Forgiveness —- but only forgiveness allows you to move forward.
* She doesn’t check her email or take calls or meet with anyone until after four o’clock, a rule she put in place to protect her creative space. People give her loads of trouble about it, but she holds firm. She knows that once she allows anything outside to puncture this space, she’s finished for the day and can’t get back to it. Do whatever you need to do to protect your space.
This was an ordinary day that became extraordinary. We woke up with zero Saturday plans; it was dark and raining and we figured it best to hole up at home, watch sports on TV, and read a good book. As it happened, I was reading this book. The next thing we knew we were taking a road trip in the afternoon sunshine — where had this blue sky come from? — heading north across our Golden Gate bridge, enjoying a great dinner of fennel and sausage pizza at The Brick and Bottle, discovering an independent bookstore we hadn’t even heard of, and hearing this great writer, all the way from England, entertain us with her words.