The Yearning to Learn From Our Lives

Lisa Gornick

photo by Sigrid Estrada

Some of you may recall the controversial essay published in February about an MFA instructor who left teaching, then felt free to say what he really thought of his students. It is full of half-truths and a few moments of insight, but those moments of insight don’t really make up for the rest of it. (God help the new or inexperienced writer who tries to differentiate the half-truths from the insight.)

Contrast that piece with this wonderful meditation by Lisa Gornick, “An Analyst Teaches the Personal Essay,” in the latest bulletin from Glimmer Train. Gornick was asked to teach a personal essay course because of her background as a psychoanalyst. She says:

We all yearn to learn from our lives so we do not stumble like Sisyphus up the same hill over and over but, instead, discover the art of living well. For those interested in the therapy situation or the personal essay as a means to this end, there are pages to be borrowed from one another. The personal essay can provide an artful account of earned insight often more useful than tomes of session transcripts or the bastardized synopses of years of therapeutic work. Conversely, for the writer, the therapy situation can provide a road map for the diversions into defensiveness and self-deception, the way we fight self-knowledge as we seek it.

Read the full essay by Lisa Gornick.

For more from Glimmer Train:

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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