I arrive in Durham yesterday (yay US Air! So much better than Delta!) and went to the Rubenstein Library today, where I started my week long research in the Dorothy Allison papers. I'm here through the generosity of a Mary Lily Research Grant, for which I'm quite grateful.
The archive is a gold mine so far. There is so much already that speaks to my work.
Seeing her sequence of manuscripts for Bastard Out of Carolina has also been incredibly inspiring and impressive. So. many. drafts. And so much tightening up, and moving things around, and cutting entire scenes. A big reason why the novel is so good is that there is a hell of a lot of work in it. Good writing really does come from process--and commitment to that process, and feedback on your process--so much writing that never made it to the page.
The other day, when I reached that block in my writing, where I hit a question that I didn't know the answer to, a lot of my online writing community encouraged me to try to write through the block--and while I know that sometimes works, it wasn't the right answer at the moment. I was having an emotional reaction to hitting the block, and as long as the frustration was there, the block was going to remain. Instead, I got up and did something else for a while--and then I wrote in my dissertation notebook about the frustration, and then I was able to return to my chapter. (So I guess I sort of wrote through my block, but what was more useful was taking the break to let the emotion simmer down a bit.
Tomorrow, back to the archives. Duke is so lovely--and today was really something, as I don't think I've ever been in a special collections library that had so many people! I had to share a table for most of the day. I'm very happy to know that the collection is so appreciated.