Nine of us were gathered in the lounge of Burlingame on Pacific University’s campus. It was early, just after seven in the morning, and seemed earlier still, since all nine of us were in the middle of our summer residency for Pacific’s MFA program. We lay on our backs, seven emerging writers and a preeminent poet, listening to our yoga teacher, herself a third semester student in the program, talk us through a yoga practice that would provide some relief to the hunched-shoulders, scrunched-back posture of our vocation. “Stretch out your arms,” she said, and, later, when we were standing in Warrior II, she said it again.
Stretch out your arms. I’m sure she may have used more yogic vocabulary, but the sense of those words stayed with me for the rest of the residency. While our faculty delivered craft talks about pushing yourself to follow where the story takes you, about overcoming writer’s block, about building tension in poetry and prose, about writing compelling first pages, I was thinking about the ways in which I need to stretch out my arms when it comes to writing. I was thinking about the ways in which that will be more difficult, now that I’ve graduated, and the ways in which stretching out my arms, creatively speaking, will be easier, without the requirements of the program to direct my work. It’s a mantra I’m repeating to myself, as I’m planning the next few months of my writing life. What will help me stretch out my arms to the story?