The Nudged Inch

By Hedgebrook Guest

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Categories: Alum Experiences, Women's Voices,

After a burst of crying, I spent today in an attic thumbing through Jung, a year after my time at Hedgebrook. It’s been a long day. I should clarify that I’m not in any old attic, but one at another residency, and that the cry wasn’t a bad cry, more like a necessary one. The Jung, however, was Jung.

In my morning pages—a residency habit I sustain after having picked up The Artist’s Way from the Hedgebrook library and trying it out in my armchair, by the fire, in Oak Cottage—I wrote that I had accomplished nothing significant almost halfway through this month. Everything feels nudged along an inch. 1600 words here, a decision there, a few pages of line edits here, a revised paragraph there. I remember my month at Hedgebrook being so fertile and idyllic, but did I feel that way in the thick of it or am I looking with the soft light of hindsight?

I reread my diary entries from my Hedgebrook month. My first day, I learned what stinging nettles were by tripping into a bush of them. I discovered banana slugs and described my life as having devolved into a sick game of the-floor-is-hot-lava as I avoided stepping on them. Here, last night, a cricket jumped into my room. I folded a rug over it and slept with my clothes on until housekeeping could dispose of the body so my relationship with the natural world has continued unchanged in its discord.

After one of my first communal meals in the farmhouse, another writer plucked The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin off a shelf and placed it in my hands. I read it sitting on the window bench in my cottage, enthralled by the world and characters LeGuin so deftly created. Instead of intimidating me, it imbued me with enough enthusiasm to sidle back up to my own novel, my own world. I described working on it as “fun.” The novel is here with me, the chapter I wrote at Hedgebrook included. The book grew this month by 1600 words, what feels like a measly amount. The doubt, aversion, and feeling woefully unintelligent that came before those words, I would not describe as fun, but for those 1600 words I was blissfully lost in the doing and that was. That nudged inch is worth whatever comes before it.

In my second week at Hedgebrook, I woke up with the urge to cry from what Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls “dark man” dreams. The man is a manifestation of the predator in our own psyche. The dreams have a strong physical aspect–they jolt you awake, make your heart pound. They’re initiatory dreams, preparing us to go from one level of knowing to a deeper one. “I’m here for more than parking myself in front of a screen and typing,” I wrote.

Crying and Jung. I seem to be right on schedule. What of word counts though?

As I start the third week of my current residency, I reread what I wrote on September 15, 2015. “Some writers get here and write like 100 pages, but I am certainly not that kind of writer.” What kind of writer did I think I was then? “Years of writing in spurts—a few words in caps as placeholders, expanding on those words with a few sentences, molding a paragraph, threading it to be cohesive with another paragraph, staying with a scene, rounds of printing, rereading, tweaking, heightening—not in one sitting, mind you, but at work, on my lunch break, after work, on the way home on the train, for a few minutes in the evening, on a Saturday morning after walking Niko, a Sunday morning after breakfast. Snatches of time. It’s all I’ve ever had.” I am a nudgy kind of writer. The just-1600-words-at-a-time kind.

“It’s fine. It works for me. And the only right way is the way that works.” My immediate response is to ask, but is it though? Working. I don’t need to look back to gain perspective for an answer. A few words at time, a decision here, some scribbles in margins there, has always led me to the thick of it.

 

About the Author:

Glendaliz CamachGlendaliz Camacho is a writer, born and raised in New York City. Her work appears in The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press), All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color (University of Wisconsin Press), The Brooklyn Rail, The Butter, and Kweli Journal, among others. She is currently working on a short story collection, a novel set in a world based loosely on the Caribbean before Conquest, and a musical she began writing at Hedgebrook.

 

 

 


 

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1 Comment

  • Rebecca Cleary
    12:14 PM - 18 August, 2016

    What a poignant and insightful essay. Thank you for sharing, Glendaliz. So much of what you experience is true for me as well… The Artist’s Way, such a rich tool. Jung so profoundly real. “A nudgy kind of writer… 1600 words at a time…to the thick of it.” So beautifully descriptive of encountering the humus of creative voice. Keep doing it.

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