To the Clarion West class of 2016,
Herly shit, guys, you’re in week 2 already. It goes so fast. Doesn’t it go fast? I should know because my class was two years ago and I still can’t believe it’s over.
Here’s some stuff I learned there, and some things I wish someone had told me.
1. God, have fun. Don’t just work. Go to all the parties, stay up late, tell all your best stories, hug and snuz with everyone, swim in the lake even though it’s full of scary lilly pads. But maybe keep your drinking in check? By all means, drink and be merry. Just don’t let the stress inspire you to drink every day, like someone did: I wont mention any names*. After all, unless you’re Australian, you wont be able to handle it.
(*It was me.)
2. Around the week three mark, I lost my mind. IT’S OKAY TO LOSE YOUR SHIT. Just don’t do what I did and not tell anyone the extent of it. Yes, I spent a few days afraid to go near my window, in spirals thinking I was the worst person on earth and that everyone hated me, and escaping to the bathroom to sob or hyperventilate. But no one there will judge you. Let them know you’ll ultimately be okay, but that you’re suffering right now. Full disclosure: I was in a rough, rough patch when I went to CW. I convinced myself beforehand that if they found out how crazy* I was that they would not let me come. But everyone was so supportive of my loveable nutcase ways, and I reckon that if I’d let them in to the full extent of it, they would have been just as supportive. You’re among a bunch of people who you’ll form deep, deep bonds with. It’s fleeting but these people care about you. They will support you if you need it.
(*It is okay to self-identify as crazy if ‘mentally ill’ is sometimes too much of a mouthful.)
3. Work hard. Work so hard, because you might not ever be as supremely productive as you are now. Pay attention, take notes (fuck, my notes are such a mess), spend every day that you can getting your stories as good as they can be, because you have so much sparking creativity around you. So much so that you will spend the rest of your life trying to recreate it.
4. Go to Mt Rainier*. If you can’t get there, just get out in nature. Seattle and the PNW is so beautiful. Mt Rainier is fucking majestic. Take a day here and there to get away from writing and do something that reminds you that there’s more to life and CW than the writing basement with no windows, or the cafe’s on the Ave.
(*It does take three hours to get to Mt Rainier, and the thin air will make you feel really high for a bit and your potato chip packets will expand and maybe burst. But there are many sweet mountain babes there.)
5. Go to a dive karaoke bar. There’s no reason for me to explain why, you just should.
6. For posterities sake, take a million pictures. Afterwards, make a dropbox folder and get everyone to upload THEIR pictures to it. It will comfort you afterwards when things aren’t the same. I took a million photos, but don’t have many of myself there. STEAL EVERYONE ELSES.
7. Record your crits! I only recorded one, and seeing as that story became the basis of my book (Welcome to Orphancorp) The crit was INVALUABLE. Plus, you can be creepy and listen to everyone’s voices when you feel all miss-y.
8. You probably will get depressed when you come back. Aforementioned crits and photos will help with this.
9. It will change your life. Not just your career, your life. After CW I quit my job, moved a thousand kilometres away and completely changed my way of life. I got a glimpse there of the kind of life I wanted to live and since I’ve done everything I can to make it happen.