Robert Anthony Siegel on mothers, writing and teaching:
‘It’s always been a matter of faith for me that good writing begins with the ability to say what you want without worrying about how others might react. Nothing worthwhile happens in writing without that basic expressive freedom. I’d worked many years to achieve that imaginative openness for myself, however tentative and fragile it still often felt. Did I want to refuse it to my mother?
“Yes, the novel,” I said, stalling for time as the writing teacher and the son fought it out inside me.
“You don’t like it, do you?” she asked.
I looked at her across the little table, as she sat very straight and still, awaiting her writing teacher’s verdict. Suddenly, I could see the emotional logic driving her novel: If she hadn’t married my father, she wouldn’t have had to suffer the pain of losing him. And I could understand how imagining that pain away might look like an attractive option right now.
“I do like it,” I said to her. “I think it’s got great potential.” “Really? You think it’s good?” “You have a terrific voice, but what you need now are more scenes. The more you get your main character talking and doing things in scene, instead of explaining and describing in exposition, the more complex and interesting she’s going to get. She’ll start to grow in ways you can’t plan or control.”’
(Read the article here.)
It’s a funny piece, but it also makes clear that creative writing is a kind of yoga. Or perhaps I should say: a kind of meditation.