Sonya Huber: “I have great tolerance for my own shitty sentences.”

I love Sonya Huber. She was my first mentor of my first semester of my MFA program back in 2009. She was also my thesis advisor my last semester in 2011. It was Sonya who introduced me to the idea that writing a memoir—book length or essay—begins with a messy excavation process. I’ll never forget the day I stood in my writing room talking to her on one of our mentoring calls while staring at a poster-sized Post-It peppered with enough scenes to fill five books, never mind one 150-page thesis of creative nonfiction.

“I’m writing in circles,” I told her, as my writing room began to spin.

“You’re excavating,” she said, “Keep going.”

Thus began my journey of not only learning the craft of writing memoir but also of doing the much harder work of meeting myself where I’m at in relationship to my material, and from there extending compassion and acceptance to myself and my writing so that I could keep going.

“Don’t be afraid to make a mess,” Sonya taught me. For she knew that writing memoir is an act of consciousness, and that consciousness is messy. Which, by the way, makes writing memoir a beautiful antidote for the perfectionism that silences so many women writers: writing memoir insists you choose between perfectionism and completion, a worthy subject for another time.

For now, I share with you the gift of Sonya’s wise and generous writing heart: an hour with her on the latest episode of The Creative Nonfiction podcast, where you’ll hear one of the best nuggets of writing advice ever given:

“One of the reasons I’m a productive writer is that I have a great tolerance for  my own shitty sentences. I’m fine with producing something terrible…and working up toward something that makes sense.” ~ Sonya Huber

May this hour with Sonya send you back to the page with renewed love and tolerance for your own shitty sentences, full permission to make messes on the page and, above all, to keep going. (Note: the interview with Sonya begins 5 minutes into this podcast, if you’d like to breeze by the introduction.)

Much writing love,

Marilyn

P.S. Looking for a space where you can cultivate tolerance for your own shitty sentences? The Writing Out Loud Sisterhood Inner Circle is a monthly membership program where women who are done with silence and perfectionism encourage each other to keep going in writing and in life. Magic happens here. Messy writing magic.

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