I had not heard of Porochista before the day’s event, but she left quite an impression on me. The group only got to hear a small part of her prose, which I found strong and open, but I’m inclined to hear more, see more. I was able to ask Ms. Khakpour a question, which has been a question that I have struggled with for a long time: “how did you come to your own literary voice? and what does that mean to you?” She seemed to really like the question, and out of it came a large amount of advice. She said that reading was one of the most important aspects of writing. She said that she does not write every day but she does read, always reading. She told me that she came to find her voice by reading like this, and asking along the way, “how does this sound?” “How would I say this?” Often, she said, she would find a match with another author, even from disparate sources, whether it was Stephen Dixon or a fellow student in her graduate program (which she hated). She told me to read, read, read, and also to live. “It is the writer’s job to live,” she said. One must go out into uncomfortable situations, new situations, places where one is not inclined to go to before. Rather than doing the same thing every weekend, go someplace you have not gone before. Don’t worry, she said, about recording everything that happened. Just live.
Porochista said that another part of the author’s job is to “get a little information and then stop, and let the imagination fill in the rest.” She used the example of her brief Google studying rampage that gave her just enough information to write about a feral child in one of her novels. Briefly, Porochista spoke on how writer’s view themselves. Prose writers all seem to have a sort of “butch” nature (to overcompensate for the apparent uselessness of their form), so they compare themselves to bricklayers, people who work with their hands. Porochista looks at how she writes like painting: each sentence is a brush stroke. This liberated me. I felt confined by a sort of teleological goal of my writing, to come to some sort of meaningful end, to give information in the sentences that would allow the reader to catch on. I chose instead to view writing like painting. It matches the emotional experience that I want my writing to be. It is not building a bench, it is painting: I mix paints, try them next to each other, but I have a greater vision in mind, often vague, that each brush stroke works towards. I can only come to write what I want to write, however, by “knowing myself,” through the trying and failing of writing and living. Porochista suggested, as a final “gift,” that each aspiring writer make for themselves a ritual, around reading and writing, which must be done at certain times. That was my first step. Maintaining it, however, is the difficult part.