Dispatches from the Dorm


A few things I’ve learned about myself at the Yale Writers’ Conference:

1.  No matter how many days go by, I remain in awe of the architecture.  No gate, no door, no ceiling or courtyard, is any less than magnificent.

2.  The things I’m most afraid to write about are the most important things to write about.

3.  No matter how many times you tell a room of 100 people to turn off their cell phones, there’s always somebody ….

4.  Six women sharing one bathroom isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  And I don’t miss TV.

5.  Reading your work in front of a big crowd really does get easier.  Your heart still pounds like mad, but is that a bad thing?

6.  Bacon and mashed potato pizza is the perfect food.

7.  The bigger the library, the more hypnotic the effect.  And you can’t get any work done when you need a nap.  As beautiful as this library is, the one in the photo above, I write best at my desk in my dorm room.

8.  Focus is overrated.  From Jonah Lehrer’s IMAGINE:  Trying to force an insight can actually prevent the insight.  While it’s commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs.  So relax, and write.

9.  I will walk many blocks, at 5 or 6 in the morning, for a good, strong cup of coffee.

10.  I’m on the right track.

21 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Dorm

  1. jpon

    Glad to hear the conference is fulfilling expectations. I really like what you said in #8. I’d been struggling all day yesterday with the chapter I’m working on, trying to find the point of it all. I stopped for a while, had dinner and some wine, and when I sat down just to type a few more words, it all became clear. I do believe the subconscious is a wonderful thing for a writer. It works on story problems like a little computer in the back of the mind and more often than not, comes up with a good solution.

    1. Teri Post author

      I had my first “aha!” on the first day, and it’s been a pleasure everyday since. This afternoon we had a reading by Richard Selzer. He’s 84 yrs old and his prose was so powerful — from the first piece to the last, it took everything I had not to burst into tears.

  2. LauraMaylene

    Hurray! So glad your time there is going well. I’m picturing you reading your work before hundreds of people before ducking backstage to devour some bacon-mashed-potato pizza and then embarking on a frantic search for coffee. All before heading back to the dorm to write for a few hours, of course. Enjoy.

    1. Teri Post author

      I can’t wait to hear about your adventures at Bread Loaf —- though I must say I’m currently enamored with your reports on moving!

    1. Teri Post author

      Lisa !! I miss you! And yes, you would absolutely be right here with me, pizza and architecture and lectures and some damn good conversation. Hugs.

  3. Josephine

    i’m going to get #2 tattoo’ed somewhere i can see it all the time. (maybe my husband’s forehead? i’m running out of personal space with all these tattoos i keep saying i’m going to get. after seeing anthony kiedis’s tattoo’ed back on stage last week, i told my husband that i’m going to get a tattoo of a peacock across my entire back upon selling my first novel. he said, “i’m holding you to that one,” like a dare.)

    1. Teri Post author

      I read the word “peacock” and it reminds of me of how I was raised not to show off, not to come forward out of any crowd, ever. Which solidifies #2 as my mantra. Yes. Yes it does. (wash rinse repeat)

    1. Teri Post author

      #10 is like a big skeleton key. It clangs something awful when I drop it, and I when I pick it up again it has heft in my hand. Finally. Thankfully.

  4. Averil Dean

    Wow. What a library! As sloppy as my writing can be, I don’t think I’d get a word down when working in a building like that. I’d be trying to write with a calligraphy pen.

    SO glad you’re enjoying Yale. And yeah, you’re on the right track.

    1. Teri Post author

      It IS the kind of place you’d use a calligraphy pen. It’s like being in church.

      The other day I went to this big library, got to “my spot” and unloaded my backpack, only to discover I’d forgotten my glasses. So I packed back up and out I went. The security guard stopped me, “Hey, you just got here! I need to check your bag.” When I told him what had happened, he laughed and sent me on my way. Now, every time he sees me, he points to his own glasses. Very cute.

  5. erikamarks

    You’re there!!! I’m so thrilled–I wondered as we passed through CT on our way to Maine this morning if you’d arrived, and clearly you have!

  6. Lyra

    Love, LOVE this list. And of course you’ll walk for coffee. Are there people that won’t? You don’t need to be friends with those types of freaks. They’re unstable.

    1. Teri Post author

      Dear lord, I have been up at 5 a.m. every single day. Today I popped up in the bed, it was light outside, and I looked at my phone clock: 4:56 a.m. Right on schedule!

      I’m literally standing outside the Starbucks door at 5 minutes to opening.

      There’s actually a great coffee place right next to my dorm, but it opens at — are you sitting down? — 8 a.m.

      I laugh.

  7. Catherine

    Sounds wonderful, really enriching. I agree that after a while reading becomes much easier. But the pounding heart – yes! I have my first big lit festival this summer and am feeling slightly daunted, but enthusiastic. I think the enthusiasm and the wish to do well and speak effectively are things I did not ever think I would feel! You still coming to Italy?

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