Writer in Residence

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Being a Writer #12: Jonathan Garfinkel


In 2012 I went to Banff for a self-directed residency in hopes I'd finally finish a significant re-draft of The Best Kind of People. I spent every day by myself in my room, taking breaks to walk in the woods, go to a yoga class or grab food. I rarely spoke to anyone. After a few days of complete solitude I decided to go see a presentation by a playwright happening downstairs, and it turned out to be Jonathan Garfinkel, whose memoir Ambivalence, I had just read a few months before. Shortly after that, we met up in Toronto at The Griffin Awards and became friends.What do you wish someone had told you before you published your first book?For nearly three years I worked on my first book, Ambivalence. The writing and research filled my days with, if not joy, a sense of purpose. It was something I needed to write, wanted to write, and while I am not so arrogant to say I felt like my  book was the centre of the universe, it was the sun that held me in orbit. I had grants to live on and an advance to finish the book. It was a rich, meaningful time and I mourned its ending.  I suppose I wish someone had told me that once the book was done, it was done. Sure there were interviews to do, readings to go to, festivals to present at, but the pleasure that is the struggle of writing was complete - and now i needed to write something new. I think I wasn't prepared for that transition. Maybe the point is that writing is solitary - it's difficult to share that feeling with anyone - in fact, you don't, since the act of reading is also solitary. I don't know what i expected or hoped for. Since the book was quite political, I found myself either defending its political positions or being asked to elucidate them at readings or in interviews. This didn't really interest me. I was most interested in the craft of writing the book, the attempt to make something beautiful and true, that held my interest. I also found I was totally ill-equipped to speak about the book in a concise, intelligent way. I kept wanting to say, "Just read the book!" Which of course you can't.

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