I tell the students to write without stopping, to keep the pen moving no matter what, even if you must repeat words repeat words repeat words like Gertrude Stein, or write the alphabet a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k, until the rhythm launches you back into the flow like Lynda Barry, even if none of it makes sense because what does make sense, anyway? It seems that every piece of news these days leaves me baffled. So why not just keep going? Eventually, something interesting will fall from the pen. It may take years, but don't let that discourage you. If you pay attention and relax, even the most mundane things will be as astonishing as the first time you comprehended the distance of a star. That's what they say. But who knows? Relaxing is not easy.
Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, I remember hearing, was difficult and religious reading, so I avoided it until Heather mentioned it. I checked out the library's large print edition. It is full of small profundities: "When things are taking their ordinary course, it is hard to remember what matters."
I tell the students not to go back and re-read what they have written, not to worry about making it good, not yet, but just to keep going keep going. Still, I pause, lost, and retreat, paragraph by paragraph, desperate to find something decent. On the way to school, I have a vision that sends me running to Phyllis's. She isn't home, so I go get the kids, and tell everyone I run into. I spend the afternoon drawing crows. But the vision fades and now I feel silly, back at home, making dinner, listening to the news on the radio.