Guest Blogger Matt Komatsu: The Grind

Dear Reader,

With no small sense of relief, I’m proud to say that this week, Danger Close: Alaska kicks off.  What began as a dream during my first residency at UAA’s MFA program is now staring me in the face, exhaling steam into the Alaska winter, and pawing the ground impatiently, full of life. It’s been a hell of a lot of work to get this far. Three nonprofits (four if you count the National Endowment for the Arts) across four time zones, fundraising, recruitment, scheduling…I have a new appreciation for the work that goes into making something like this happen.

Sometimes, if I push back from my laptop and just breathe for a moment, reflect on things, the gravity of what we’ve done hits me. There were times when I was sure we weren’t going to get the funding, when I was positive we wouldn’t get the registrants, when I just knew the other shoe was going to drop. But this is a business of belief, in ourselves and what we are doing. Good people made good things happen. Word spread. Seats filled. And that shoe never thudded to the ground.

This business of meaning-making that we’re all into: it’s a beast. And like anything else worthwhile, there are simply no shortcuts to the finish line. Its foundation is work. Not dreaming about writing. Not talking about writing. But actually putting pen to page, finger to key. Some days, it’s three steps forward, four steps back. Others, it’s a zero-g leap to parts unknown. And other days the cursor just sits there and blinks at you, accursedly patient. And that’s just the drafting. Don’t even get me started on the editing.

But then you inhale the scent of fresh ink on paper; word counts rise and hell if there aren’t a couple of great sentences in each other’s company; you feel the heft of a manuscript in your hands. You remember and maybe even smile at what you’ve done. There’s even a word for it: “Perspective.” Not to get to saccharine on things, but frankly, it’s absolutely necessary.

Achievement and success have been on my mind a lot lately, for obvious reasons. There was, and remains, a lot at stake for Danger Close: Alaska. There are a lot of “firsts” attached to it, so far as we can tell. The first writing workshop to treat war as subject matter in the state. The first time veterans and military have been invited to not only tell their stories, but find a way to do it better. The first time a partnership that spanned thousands of miles enabled the resourcing necessary to fund an artistic effort of this size and ambition.

But while true, this is a false kind of perspective. It’s the type of conditional thinking that risks compromising the heart of Danger Close. Which, at the risk of sounding sweet (again), is twenty four people coming together with four remarkable artists to learn the art of storytelling. That’s what I’m most proud of, and what I look most forward to this weekend.

Next week, I look forward to sharing some perspectives on how things went.

Write on,
Matt Komatsu

The Danger Close: Alaska workshop is full, but please come to the CrossCurrents: Who Owns the Story? event on Friday, February 5 at 7pm at the Anchorage Museum. More info

Matthew Komatsu is an author, currently serving veteran, and Nonfiction candidate in the University of Alaska-Anchorage’s MFA in Creative Writing program. He is a Pushcart Prize nominated essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times; War, Literature and the Arts; Brevity; Storysouth; and VICE Motherboard. He has also essays forthcoming in The Southeast Review and The Normal School. You can follow him on Twitter @matthew_komatsu or at his website, The opinions here are the author’s alone and do not reflect official policy or position.

1 thought on “Guest Blogger Matt Komatsu: The Grind”

  1. Best wishes to all for your event on the 5th. Wish I could be there. I'm wondering if it will be broadcast? Thank you for your work in this critical arena.

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