Teaching is to me a supremely creative act. My students and I are offered a space that is blank like a canvas. We get to decide how to fill it. What a gift! I like to start with the basics: here we are in a room together; we’re alive and rich with feelings and ideas, needs and desires. When we look into each other’s eyes, we have the ability to see each other, our idiosyncrasies along with that part which has no color or form, wears no brand, has no particular status but instead is vast; it cannot be contained and sometimes makes us weep to behold it. Aware of it or not, aren’t we always in the presence of that which goes on forever and forever? Where else could we be?
None of this has to be verbalized in order to be conveyed. Instead, it can infuse what we say. It can be the assumption guiding our interaction.
In a culture that explodes with information, ideas and distractions, I am grateful for the spaces where together we refine our consciousness, establishing ourselves in creative relation to what surrounds us and pervades us, practicing the articulation of our questions, our dilemmas, our evolving ideas. How remarkable that what is dearest to us is often that which is most hidden. That is why we value our writers so deeply. It’s why I love teaching literature.
And it is why I love teaching workshops even more, because then I get to invite others to tune in, more directly, to what moves them and to express this as fully and vividly as possible. What I say from the outset is that no one can tell them what they are supposed to write, including myself. Sorry, I say, I can’t help you there, and … isn’t that exciting?? It’s both the thrill of writing and the challenge. It’s the challenge of every creative endeavor, which includes living one’s life. No one can tell us how. Only we know what we must do. When I lead a workshop, my task is to help individuals fulfill the potential that is theirs and theirs alone. What they have entrusted to me is their sacred connection to themselves, and by instilling love and trust, I hope to strengthen that bond. What they must write, as well as live, is a vision of being that is absolutely unique. No one quite perceives the world or experiences it the way they do. That is their gift to the rest of us.
My goal always is to make myself dispensable. That is why we investigate process as well as technique. I want people to be able to strike out on their own, needing only pen and paper. I long to step out of the way. Find for yourself a quiet spot, I say, at home or outside; give yourself that time. It will be your rendez-vous with yourself. No intimacy is more precious than this or more tender.
I am in love with the person who will be revealed in that moment. That is also the person I strive to see and address during the workshop, the person whom I am constantly inviting out into the open. What an amazing vehicle writing is for this emergence.
Altogether, when I gaze at a student, what I see is his or her potential. This is not something hypothetical or forecast. This is what is real and present. Each one of us has come from the infinite and is headed, every moment, into the infinite. It is an absolute privilege to accompany someone on this journey.