“It can be hard to show up to a long-term project on a difficult topic. Who wants to dive into grief and mourning and loss every day for years? To experience grief and write about it is to exist in two cities—one in which you actually live and the other in which your previous life exists and your dead are still alive. Writing can sometimes feel like floating somewhere between these two spaces without being able to materialize either landscape fully. There’s a moment in Renee Gladman’s Newcomer Can’t Swim (Kelsey Street Press, 2007) where her speaker gets at this trouble of arrival: ‘I have a sheet of paper bearing your address. I have the map you drew in my back pocket, but I want to get to you without using the map. The other challenge is to arrive at your address without the proper city. I am not in the place where you live.’ Rather than rejecting an in-betweenness of landscapes, Gladman’s speaker invites us to overlap.
There’s a similar experience of overlapping spaces when I’m at a lecture on a topic I’m really excited about or at a reading for an author whose work I adore. My mind starts to doodle in the margins, to write a middle school note to pass to myself in class. Not out of boredom but out of the electrical connection made when hearing someone else’s mind at work. There’s a kind of wilder daydreaming that happens when I am listening and also letting my brain wander without judgement. As a reminder of doing this playful work of bi-focusing, I have a Leonora Carrington quote taped above my workspace: ‘The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope, while the left eye peers into the microscope.’ Find ways to induce daydreaming—to let one eye of your mind peer out into the vastness of space while the other focuses up close on the page.”
—Cori A. Winrock, author of Little Envelope of Earth Conditions (Alice James Books, 2020)