Hayden's Ferry Review


One Writer's Life

I've been reading this 2009 commencement address at the Whidbey Writer's Workshop from Tess Gallagher. Gallagher apparently inquired about what the class might like to hear and "...was told that perhaps a few practical survival tips would be helpful." Thus charged, she launched into a description of an artist's life filled with dedication, sacrifice and diligence. And subterfuge. There is this account of a conspiracy between her and her late husband, short-story writer Raymond Carver, to get their writing done:

"I’ll offer one example to encourage your ability to dissemble and to create time in simple ways. At the holidays in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1984, I suggested to Raymond Carver, my late husband, that we tell everyone we were going away. We would then not have to accept invitations and be fully engaged with other people’s households, especially unruly children. After we had announced we were going away, I proposed we would just not go away. We could simply hide out in our house and get our writing done, saving the expense and inconvenience of travel. This worked fine until someone spotted Ray bringing in the mail. He managed to wave them off, saying he’d forgotten something and would soon be away again. We drew the blinds and hunkered down."

If you've read about Gallagher recently it's probably because of her status as Carver's widow, speaking out for his work. But now she speaks for herself, invoking Carver only as part of a writing life that was concerned with her own work and endeavors. So many writers writing or blogging now seem devoted to debating the Kindle or obsessed with marketing (I'm counting myself here as well), so it's good to read a message from someone who was poor sometimes, who was blocked sometimes, and who had a husband die at 50, but was happy in the fact she chose words as her life.