So I call my people—my students, my clients—the “Hearts with Brains.” I will explain. But first let me tell you how I finally found them:
I started my writing workshops in Brooklyn back in 2003, on a whim, after I moved into a more-expensive apartment and needed to figure out how to cover the rent. It was an innocent beginning—I had no idea where it would lead. Putting myself out there like this was a big leap for me to take: I’m shy, and I’d really rather hide in the house than have a whole lot of conversations with strangers on the phone about how I can help them write a book.
And I had no idea who would come, or if anyone would come at all. I had no marketing background, absolutely no understanding of how to run a business. I was a writer! I knew all about creativity! I even had a masters degree in actual Creativity. Yes. I got it in San Francisco. So I had no way of knowing what an amazing thing would happen: that through a little Craigslist ad (and a few flyers in Park Slope) I would find my people.
What I wrote in the very first Craigslist ad was that my classes would be fun. That they were based in intuition, not criticism. That you have to engage the creativity part, the right brain that is not practical or logical or ego-driven, in order to get to the good stuff. That, in class, once we got on a roll with that, we would be using really amazing, effective, practical editorial tools so that you didn’t delude yourself into proudly presenting the world with its longest most annoying millennial beat poem.
I wrote that we are obsessed, as a culture, with the left brain. With what is achievement-oriented and seems productive and unassailably logical and smart and strategic and rational and presentable. And that this insane chokehold of achieving and planning and safety and control is death to the juicy delicious moments of having your writing pour through you and onto the page.
My people get this. My people struggle with this. I struggle with it. Daily. Are you kidding me? I pretty much had to take a year off from my life because my workaholism got out of control. I have had to “let go and let god,” and do any number of other appalling but effective things to deal with my own addiction to work, achievement, and to-do lists.
I am happy to report I’ve healed and am confident that I won’t ever burn out in quite so universal a way again. Work addiction looks to me now like what it is: a death sentence. That wasn’t true before—I was so in it I couldn’t even see it. But now—I get it: rest is the most important thing, just like not drinking is the most important thing for an alcoholic.
My own heart wanted rest so badly it commandeered my body into rebellion. My brain—up until the point where I was so exhausted my face was twitching—said: probably three more hours of work after dinner. It even said: who needs to eat dinner?
My own story is one of a heart with brains.
My heart really, really, really wanted to find my people and create all this amazing stuff with them. My brain had no idea about all that, and said: just submit your novel to publishers and hope something works out and you end up something like Zadie Smith. But my heart knew: literary cocktail parties are not my scene. Not remotely. Even if they’re kind of “indie.” The whole thing is too based in criticism, posturing, one-upsmanship, I’d generally rather go huff some glue.
My heart knew there was no “literary community” out there that was what I really needed. My heart knew we’d already looked for that in many, many workshops and universities and readings and conferences.Share on Facebook