I took Gil’s class on experimental fiction while I was at Stanford. He was a great teacher, perfectly at ease with himself, and willing to treat his students as peers, despite his exalted literary status.
Gil’s class came at an important time for me. I had been suffering from a terminal case of writer’s block–a big problem for Creative Writing majors.
Basically, I was afflicted with excessive self-consciousness. I was keenly aware of, as the saying goes, “sitting down to commit an act of literature.” No sooner did I start to write when my inner critic began to tear me to shreds.
Gil’s experimental fiction, with its emphasis on allow artificial constraints to free your creativity was just what I needed. I wrote furiously and prolifically again, and developed a taste for ornate forms like the sestina. Since then, I’ve rarely had any problems with writing.
Sadly, I haven’t spoken or contacted Gil in years. I think I wrote him a note when his last book came out. Alas, as the years pass, I fear that I’ll be saying goodbye to more and more of my old teachers and mentors. Take my advice–take the time now to write to them and tell them how much they affected your life. I know I will.