Archive for the ‘Existential Writerly Crises’ Category

Photo evidence

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

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What you see there is 327 pages worth of words, my friend. 327 PAGES. My kiddo helped me pick the attractive lime-green binder. I bought new colorful pens, index cards, and post-it flags. This is all supposed to make me feel confident about editing and revising.

Right.

Truthfully, I feel daunted. What if I have to re-write all 327 pages? What if I get halfway through and realize the book is hopelessly, irrevocably unsalvageable? What if my first-person protagonist is boring? What if I’m boring? What if I just don’t know enough to write this book yet.

{I know the answer: write the next one.}

I’m not afraid of work. I’m afraid of time. I’m afraid of gnawing at this project for years and years and not moving forward, of not knowing when to push harder and when to back away slowly.

Books don’t get written and shared by authors who were too afraid to do them justice. I know this. It’s just… it’s a really big binder. And there’s a lot that needs work in there. Right now it’s a foreboding mass of pages and words and way, WAY too many characters (anytime I hit a plot snag, I added a character…oops). I won’t know what (else) needs fixing, really, until I read it from the beginning to The End.

Wish me luck!

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Ghosts

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Three or four years ago I sent the start of a story to my friend K and then promptly forgot about it. This past fall when we were walking climbing over train tracks to look at St. John’s Wort, she asked me “Hey, did you ever finish that ghost story?” and it took several questions for me to realize what she was talking about. I mean, of course it is a ghost story… it has ghosts in it. But I had never thought of it that way. To me it had always been the story that started “The trucks arrived at dusk…” and toyed with the question “What if Death was a place?”

Dear readers (if there are any of you out there), I have been writing and it feels good. I’ve been alternating between this ghostly story and a story about robots. I’m taking a fiction workshop through Adult Education which has been a great chance for me to exercise my analytical writing/critique muscles. In fact, I’m even submitting my ghost story for critique, so we will see how that goes.

I had a long heart-to-heart with a new friend the other evening and well, we covered a range of subjects both personal and hypothetical and she said something that made me think, hard and painfully, about the way I make (or don’t make) decisions. She pointed out that being “easy going” can sometimes translate into “conflict avoidance” which means while it may seem easier to let decisions/arguments/opinions slide, it could really be a symptom of trying to please others and ignoring ones own wants. I sat with this hard truth for a couple of days and somewhere in there it clicked for me that yes, I do avoid conflict and yes, I often do take the easy route of putting others wants above my own. But that is because my wants — or my  basic, core want — provoke conflict in me. So I avoid my own conflict and also avoid my own want. And that want and conflict is — ding ding ding, that’s right — writing.

How silly, right? How foolish. And how unfortunate. So as I’m looking down the long scope of the next few years of my life and the direction I see my life going, there are so many other great and important things that can happen that if I don’t give writing the place in my life that I want soon, this pattern of avoidance will just continue until… well, until I’ve forgotten what this is, what this is all about.

Greg said recently “I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand how closely writing is tied to your identity,” and I’m not sure I will either. It just is. It’s scary to think of a life where I have neglected writing because it’s so much easier to let it slide. I’m not saying that things like family and career and health and giving can’t or shouldn’t also be at the forefront, but my ideal would be to find a way to integrate everything — to have writing be my career, a way to provide for my family, and a way to give back. That’s a lot to ask… a small part of it even would be nice. But this is not a life that is handed to you. It is a life that is earned through grabbing it by the proverbial horns and staring into its fiery eyes without blinking.

So I’m writing. Not every day, but almost. I have friends that are doing NaNoWriMo and while I’m not sure I have the wherewithall to truly tackle that properly this year, I hope to pace some of them in the practice of writing every day, even if it’s just something like this blog post.

When I was working on my ghost story I found myself in this amazingly immersive place. You know, The Zone. That mental space where I am surrounded on all sides by my story, the taste and smell of it, the colors and the characters. It was a profoundly satisfying place to be. I plan to visit frequently.

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What have I been doing?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I’ve been reading. A LOT. Some recent titles of note: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

I’ve been taking a web design class which has been really interesting and also work. How surprising, I haven’t done real homework in quite sometime. But the work is mostly interesting and challenging. It will hopefully also evolve into a face lift for this blog.

I have been gardening. A LOT. Peas and carrots and tomatoes and lettuce and garlic and strawberries and shallots and scallions and herbs.

I have been loving the weather. Even today, when it’s raining, but more so the lovely, warm, sunny weather of late.

(more…)

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Cycles or Why I Need to Write Something for the Lit Mag

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Wow it’s been a while. That’s all I’ll say about that.

I received an e-mail today from my alma mater saying that the undergraduate literary magazine is doing a special alumni edition and that the due date for submissions is Oct. 31st. The 31st! That’s barely three weeks. During which I will be traveling to a conference for a week. It doesn’t feel like nearly enough time to get my act together.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so rushed if I felt like I had something prepared to submit. I refuse to submit something written in college because it’s an alumni edition and in my mind that means I should submit something I’ve written as an alumni. Unfortunately, I have very few finished pieces that I have completed since graduation.

I have several poems that I think would fair alright. I’m a bit more cavalier with my poetry… I feel like it either comes out the way I want it to, in which case I’m happy to share it, or it doesn’t, in which case it probably won’t be worth anything to anyone except myself. It’s a shorter form and maybe that’s why I find it easier to revise. It’s easier for me to think in short bursts of metaphor and get it down on paper. And I’m content to leave a poem for a long time and then come back and finish it. For some reason, it seems like less of a struggle. Maybe it’s because, while I like poetry and enjoying reading it adn writing it, I don’t hold myself to any incredible standard. I write it when I feel like I have something to say and that’s about it.

Fiction is another can of worms entirely. (more…)

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On the windy cliff

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Last night I had an existential writing moment, though of course, it never looks like that on the surface. It stemmed from a sense of dissatisfaction with my current career path and general frustration with the lack of creative outlets in my life. I’d been brooding for a day or so when I finally got up the guts to talk to my husband, Greg, about it.

While I do intend this blog to be personal, it’s not intended to be a diary. Nevertheless I’d like to state for the record that Greg has this amazing ability to whittle down all the fluff and puff of my protests, hair-tearing, distraught machinations, into a single gleaming gem of what the real issue is. The real issue usually deals with writing. 

I told him career-wise I felt directionless, coasting, unmoored. I told him writing was the only thing I really knew I was good at and I didn’t want to lose it in the muddle. That so many of my interests seem to fall by the wayside: piano, drums, blogging, theater, film. I pick them up, they entertain me for awhile, and then I put them down. I told him I felt like I had to make some hard decisions to break out of the lull. And he said the key words:

“You don’t want to pick up writing because you’re afraid you’ll drop it.”

It sounds silly stating it plain like that. But it cut right to the core of the issue. Clearly I can’t know whether or not I would drop it if I never pick up writing in the first place. And if I do drop it for awhile, is that really so terrible? “Maybe that’s just how you operate. You’re a free spirit. Your interests and needs change.” 

A long term struggle has been about whether writing should be a career or a hobby, and it seems to fall into the messy crack between. I want the comfort and ease of a hobby, but the affirmation and fulfillment of a career. Finding that balance is tricky when I have a day job and am easily distracted. I’ve inherited a need to fill the spaces in my day, to feel productive. Writing for me is so often not something that leaves me feeling like I’ve been productive that it’s so tempting to do other things—cook, read a book, play around in Adobe CS3—that leave me feeling like I’ve accomplished something. But writing is a long term goal and project. I know I can’t expect immediate gratification.

“You don’t want to pick up writing because you’re afraid you’ll drop it.”

This statement, in and of itself, reveals nothing new. None of these issues are new. I can’t pursue a future in writing if I don’t write. That’s what this blog is supposed to be about. But the idea that maybe… just maybe… it’s okay if I do drop writing—just for awhile mind you—after I’ve picked it up and tried it on for size, for real… that’s somewhat freeing. I’m not sure I have the words at the moment to explain why. Except that I put a lot of pressure on myself needlessly. Except that I demand gratification and have set a very high bar for myself. When I should be having fun. Not having existential writerly crises of the most boring and overly dramatic nature.

I can say all this the day after, of course. At the time, standing on the windy cliff, looking down into the morass of a future in which I have failed to pursue any writing or find any clear course, well, it’s difficult, unsteadying, disheartening. It’s when I’m thankful to have someone with the patience and reason (who has heard this many times before) to throw me a line and haul me back from the edge. 

So no, no new declaring of goals. Just a firmer sense of resolution to write, to do my darnedest. I hope you’ll take the journey with me. I think it’s one that clearly benefits from the clarity of voices other than my own. Bring a rope, your towel, and some bread crumbs… I hope it’s a long way back.

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