Once home to a pair of Merrell boots, the box in my living room closet labeled GRAD SCHOOL is now home to a pile of chewed-up old folders: syllabi, lesson plans, thesis, writing feedback. For nearly two years, I haven’t done anything with that box but schlep it around—Missoula to DC to Wisconsin to Minnesota.
Until yesterday. Yesterday I moved the stuff piled on top of it, pulled the box out of the closet, and went scrounging around in there. I went in search of notes from the 2011 Environmental Writing Institute with Rick Bass at the University of Montana. Here’s what I found in the process:
- Trust your obsessions. They lead you somewhere.
- For every idea you develop, find the contrary. Counter yourself.
- What does your character want? (Wait, what do I want?)
- Your only hope of survival? Write shorter.
- Rick Bass, screaming through a closed window toward a bunch of toddlers frolicking merrily on the lawn outside: “CLIMATE CHANGE!”
- Your reader is hungry for the real, physical world.
- Nouns and verbs invite a reader’s interpretation. Adjectives and adverbs impose an author’s interpretation.
- Re: creative nonfiction: how much of my crap does anyone actually want to know?
- Read lots of good poetry.
- Your best sentence must be your last. Your second-best? First.
Hmm! These ideas might be worth keeping closer than a box in the closet. Especially that bit about CLIMATE CHANGE, right? Take that, innocent happy children! The world we’ve made you is effed.