What I Learned on Summer Vacation at Chautauqua

I was blessed to spend another great week at the Chautauqua Institution this summer. It’s my favorite place for vacationing. As luck would have it, a writer I like was leading a workshop while I was there, and so I spent the afternoons surrounded by other word lovers. Ann Hood (shown in picture) and I have a few things in common: we’re both women and we’re both writers. We both like to write personal essays. But she’s famous and I’m not. And she approaches her writing in ways that I don’t.

The older I get, the more I’m learning that differences are fine. That just because someone else “made it” by doing things a certain way, it doesn’t mean I have to follow that pattern in order to succeed. Ann said she doesn’t believe in the concept of lousy first drafts. Instead, she told us, she makes sure she knows what she wants to say before she begins to write. I think she’s lucky she can work like that. If I didn’t allow myself the room to roam around with my words, I’d never get to the revision stage. I think on the page. And she doesn’t change names of the people she writes about, saying it puts distance between her and the reader. I disagree. I think changing names, when appropriate, is a sign of respect.

How do you like to work?

You can find more about Ann Hood at http://www.annhood.us