We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
I am perpetually making notes in the margin of my mind.
As a single mother juggling multiple personal and professional identities, ranging from non-profit management professional and Women’s Studies teacher to mom in search of the “best chocolate chip cookie” recipe, I spent years telling myself I didn’t have time to write–and that my mind was too fragmented, too occupied with dailiness for me to write anything creative.
Then I began to think about Renaissance women.
Many of them lacked the resources they needed to be “professional” writers. In fact, even for male authors, that wasn’t even a real category: most of the great Renaissance writers were what we now call Renaissance men–politicians who crafted sonnets as they studied scientific discoveries, art, architecture, foreign language–you get the picture.
While men pursued their work, women kept account books, in which they created budgets, planned meals (none of which, by the way, would make it onto my own table!), wrote lists, copied down poems, and–on the edges–wrote their own stories in fragments that come to the surface only if we look carefully.
If they could find space for writing personal narratives, poems, and even plays in the tiny blank spaces available to them, why wasn’t I writing?
So I started.
I wrote an entire draft of a middle-grade novel based on bedtime stories I was telling my daughter, a collection of poems about the time I spent in Egypt with my ex-husband, and a creative nonfiction essay about my childhood. I wrote in spurts and fits, sometimes on my phone in the carpool line or waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. I wrote, and I’m still writing, not because I think I’ll suddenly become Shakespeare. I’ll be happy with Shakespeare’s sister, that anonymous figure who Virginia Woolf invented in A Room of One’s Own, whose writing exists on the edges of her life–and the edges of history.
Sometimes it’s just a note on the back of a receipt or a list of possible rhymes jotted down in a book I’m reading, but I’ve learned three things that we’ll discuss in the Mill workshop “Writing on the Edges of Life/Life on the Edge of Writing”:
1. Writing can happen anywhere, using any tools/materials and engendering anything. The final product isn’t the point. Rather, the process is.
2. When we wait for the perfect moment, free from encumbrances, we do not write. Not at all. My twenty-year writer’s block is a case in point.
3. If we lived lives without encumbrances, what would we write about anyway? Seriously. The stories we tell come out of our worlds, not out of some sterile writing laboratory, where poets perform intellectual alchemy without any contamination from the messiness of things like love and work.
During the workshop, we’ll talk about when and where we can create space for writing in our lives, and we’ll explore ways in which we can use the physical/emotional space we already have. We will ask questions about what it means to write on the margins of life while also considering how we can learn more about our lives as they intersect with our writing.