2016 is going great so far. Amazing great.
For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format.
In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for feedback from the teacher and the group.
In other words, it was two days of the cherry on my ice cream of life.
I learned things I have yet to process but there is one piece of advice I am giving to myself after first receiving this gift and then watching Karen Bender in action all weekend. Here it is, if the title didn’t give it away already. . . . .
My friend’s gift of the class in the first place is more than I can ever repay, and she knew that when she offered it. The positive effect of just the right gift at just the right moment can last a very long time. I will be grateful to her forever.
Here’s something else: While Karen Bender worked with us on our flawed and earnest masterpieces, not once did this writing teacher at the top of her own craft, (who earned her mastery through years of toil and rigorous programs and reading and trial and error and accomplishment and courage and contribution), NOT ONCE did this teacher give any kind of sign that our work wasn’t important too. She treated each story with respect.
TBH, if I were this writer, I wouldn’t have had the patience for me. Yet my teacher did have the patience. Her generosity of spirit was inspiring. She had so much good information and expressed joy in sharing it. She seemed to be having so much fun.
Advice to myself: Be generous. Remember how it felt to sit in that space my friend gave me, learning from one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my life. Pay these gifts forward. Meet people where they are and take joy in sharing.
Lead with an open heart. Say yes to amazing great.
List the areas of your life where you are abundant (i.e. time, money, style, listening, skill in knitting, social connections, great cup of coffee-making, resumé-writing, childcare prowess. . . .). Maybe with one or two of those abundant areas there are ways you can share what you’ve got with others. Where could you start at home, with those closest to you?
Write about the best teacher(s) you’ve ever had. Describe an interaction with that teacher. How was he or she generous with you? What did you learn from this person that has stuck with you over time? Are there ways in which you try to be like this person for other people?
List the best presents you ever got. These can be objects wrapped in paper, or something else such as a good conversation at just the right moment, or an introduction to someone you fell in love with, or the perfect job. Try to make it to twenty best presents. Write more as you think of them.