About Invictus 2015
“What I’d love to see, when I finally retire, is a bookshelf filled with The Invictus Writers volumes lining my wall. If I have that, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something as a teacher. Of course, all of that is up to me and you. Plus a bunch of you who haven’t even come to school yet. Hopefully you won’t piss me off or let me down.” — Me, at the launch of Invictus, Vol. 1 in 2010.
Writing is the most important aspect of my life. Every day I spend time wandering through the world looking for stories that interest me.
Maybe because I’ve spent so much time thinking about writing, I now see the world around me as if I were reading a book: There are introductions, there are chapters, there are (sometimes) parts and sections, and invariably there are endings. Whether its relationships or events in real space, I seek the solace of the well-told (and ended) story.
This creates within me a sense of melancholy, an ever-looming realization that whatever is happening now will soon fade into a memory, washed away by the next events that too will soon be washed away.
I’ve been asked if My Way is sad. I try to assure the ask-er that it’s quite the opposite.
I live as fully as I can in each moment, appreciating and drinking in the complexities around me. I have spent a lifetime searching for the souls of other people within the recesses of my own mind so that I can, as I tell my young writers, understand the best reasons that drive the actions of others.
That is the essence of the writer. We write the truths of the people around us, and we see those flawed individuals in full even as others may not. We avoid painting in broad black-and-white strokes. We avoid bright colors and shun neutral greys. We write about the places where the colors and the lines become almost indecipherable.
To do that, we must first see ourselves in full, and not as we imagine we are. We write as much as about ourselves as we do others. The words we chose, the angles that appear, and the stories we tell reveal who we are. Along the way, if we can gain some understanding about the worst of our nature, we can understand (but never excuse) the worst of another’s nature.
I don’t think most ask-ers go away convinced of the merits of my argument.
I write this prologue for you, reader, because I’m yearly amazed when I explain this very idea to a handful of young writers that they tell me they have waited their whole lives for an opportunity such as Invictus.
That they would be so desperate to shred their insides and spill them across the page for everyone to see should give you some insight into who they are even though you haven’t yet met them.
They have a longing to write meaningful stories, but they each know they are missing something, an unnamed idea that keeps them from writing what they want. They are terrified to spill themselves across the page, and yet they are drawn to Invictus. They don’t exactly know what this project is, but they think this may help them unlock whatever tools they are missing.
They are brave, but not for the reasons we oftentimes ascribe to bravery. They are not here because they have made a choice; They are here because they have no other.
Each of The Invictus Writers, Vol. 4, has in her own way (and they are all women in this version of the group) already made it clear she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. So we gather together, settle in, and watch the world go by, meticulously pulling it apart as its glories and failures crash against each other in the Symphony Melancholia.
We are Invictus.