Yuknavitch/what is real/being the decorator of one’s own experience

How do you feel when you start a new project?
Like the world just started and I get to be alive.
When are you afraid?
You mean in writing?  I’m afraid when I write into territory of psychic or emotional mega pain – the far end – the psychosis end.  I’m also quite dangerous in such a  moment.
How does it feel different from being in the midst of a project, and at the end of a finished project?
I’m almost always only interested in the PROCESS of writing. Once something is completed, it isn’t mine. It’s away from me. It belongs to the world or even just someone else.  Inside the process I don’t even want to come out. I’ve had to learn to come back out. There are good reasons to come out. But I love it in there. You have no idea how much more real it is to me inside art than the world…

(caption: Cypress Island/Lake Martin swamp, by me. I often feel like swamps are where I feel closest to the world starting. I love swamp smell. And marsh smell.)

AB: Something I know about Ms. Yuknavitch is her deep respect for the way a completed piece of work changes ownership after it is processed by her. “Processed by her” is a weird way of saying it. But anyway, my point is that she was very specific to me about respecting my own relationship with her book, Chronology of Water. She articulated that it was interesting to see what my experience was with the book. I really loved that. This attitude toward the reader experience prompts a reader to develop integrity, to stand on her own two feet with the responses her brain, heart, and body provide to a work of art.

In her Rumpus interview on July 31, she says to the interviewer, mid-conversation:

 I respect your reading experience.

I can’t help wonder how my academic experience would have been changed by more teachers who asserted this, over and over again, in different ways and in different moments the way Yuknavitch does. I could say something about how Proust’s psychology feels like being locked in the heat of feminine codependence, and the professor says interesting in the way of the academic lower case “i.” I could say that the reference to Dorothy Draper in the one novel took me to Decorating is Fun which took me to bouts of ecstatic, snarling badassery with her yellows and blacks and reds and pinks and seafoam greens and hunter greens, and why is it a class issue to use color, when working class people have been coloring for ever?

And why aren’t there more books about George Washington Carver’s innovations and firm beliefs in color and using it to take pride in one’s perspective aka one’s home?

And by then, you see, I’ve missed the lecture at hand. 

I am realizing how when I say I have been writing for 8 hours today I have been doing a lot of things. I have been dancing, touching, crying, rolling around on the floor, staring at a crack in the wall, and trancing. What is real? How do we define our experience:  what percentage is made up of other-defining, and what percentage is made up of own-self meaning-making and own-self other referencing?

Writing time is chewing on air and smiling and happy baby. Writing time is walking walking walking until a green set of shutters paralyze you for a second. Writing time is checking the guilt and the shame.

About alison barker