Monthly Archives: August 2010

Doubling down


As I tweeted earlier, I am coming to terms with my suckitude, and then trying to psych myself to work harder, in order to make up for my lack of natural talent as a writer. I haven’t been posting much here, because I like to entertain, even in the throes of pain whether psychic or physical, and I just don’t know how to make the anguish over my writing, at all charming.

I’ve gotten rejection after rejection from litmags, even if once in awhile, I receive a wonderful and encouraging handwritten note from a notable litmag. In the end, they’re all still rejections–hundreds of them. I even got a litmag rejection on my birthday. It has made me give up entirely on writing short stories.

I’m surrounded by successful people and friends, whether in the world of writing or in the world of business. My husband is brilliant and amazing and has achieved so much in his industry vertical. Next to their many commendations and achievements I feel, well, I feel like all those rejections speak for me. Almost, but not quite. Or more often, not good enough.

Meanwhile, my novel is taking everything out of me. It overwhelms me. It intimidates me. It taunts me. It occasionally winks at me. It smells good. It smells bad. It is elusive. It is stoic. It is confusing. It is an enigma at times. It unfurls itself and shows me its entire landscape at other moments. It is a long way from being finished.

I’ve considered never writing again. I can’t bring myself to do it. I have no choice but to write. I love it too much. I consider the tragedy of loving an activity at which I totally suck, and that just makes me want more chocolate. But it doesn’t make me want to stop writing.

It is out of arrogance that I think my novel should be easier to write, that the words should pour forth from my fingers. The reality is that it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever undertaken. I’m not as talented as others. And so I’ve got to put in the work.

And I’ve got to be happy about the work. I’ve got to be motivated to sit at my desk and write the words, navigate my prose, and be there if the Muse happens to stop by–because if I’m not there, I may miss the Muse.

Thus ends my absolutely uncharming post. In sum:

  • Writing is heartbreaking.
  • Writing involves a lot of failure.
  • I’m not as talented as other writers.
  • Thus, I have to work harder.
  • If I show up to work, I may actually meet the Muse.
  • Work is how I finished the first draft of my novel.
  • Eventually, I’ll finish revising my novel. Through hard work.
  • I don’t have to finish revising on any timeline. I just have to make it my best.
  • Shut my eyes when lists like “New Yorker’s 20 Under 40” come out.
  • Because I’ll most definitely be over 40 by the time I finish revising this novel.
  • Don’t quit.

This isn’t much different from what I tell my students. I also tell them to find support in each other, because support from peers and mentors makes all the difference.


Filed under Novel, Revision, Writing

That didn’t take long

subway tile art + graffiti

Well, my peaceful acceptance of life’s twists and turns didn’t last long. The reality of my 2010 Fall is beginning to sink in: it doesn’t look like I will have much time to write. I’ve been in denial about this new change in schedule, but now that it is upon me, I realize I have to make some huge pragmatic concessions and compromises with my time.

I want to cry.
But I will buck up.
Even though I want to cry.

Meanwhile: check out the crazy subway tile art! Look at the juxtaposition of these two figures. Examine how they are dressed–check out how the bigger lady on the left is outfitted with a shapeless grocery bag and equally unattractive tote/backpack and clothed in what seems to be either sweats or capris with what seems to be boots/sneakers…and how the slimmer lady on the right has a cute “fashionable” handbag with skirt and heels. The lookism here is incredible.

And even better: the clever graffiti speech bubble coming out of the “fat” figure on the left. An intrepid citizen gave the figure a voice, one that boldly says, “Ok, so I fat so wot?” LOL. Yes exactly. So what?

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Filed under Teaching, Writing

end of August days

mystery volunteer squash: watch it grow!

I had had high hopes for this summer–was going to revise my entire novel in concerted focused effort, but I didn’t do that. In fact, I didn’t do anything I’d set out to do. On one level, I feel like a failure (to my own ambition)–on another level, I have to trust this as part of my writing process. Perhaps I just needed to rest and explore instead of carve a direct path to the destination.

One of my writing mentors this summer raised his eyebrow in surprise when I said I wanted to begin revision on a manuscript I’d completed 7 months previous.

“But that’s novel time!” he said. As in, too soon too soon–as in, 7 months isn’t anything in the scope of a novel writing timeline.

I brushed his commentary off. I wanted to start revision, dammit! And quite a few of my friends (on deadlines with agents and editors) began revision after finishing their first drafts, in a rapid progression akin to a car pulling a U-turn after missing a turn off. I wanted to do the same.

But that wasn’t going to happen.

Like the volunteer squash in my garden, my summer has been about unexpected surprises that have derailed me, but not without lessons learned. I got hit by a car (it feels like an out of body experience, flying through the air after impact) at the very beginning of summer, and somehow I feel like the psychological and physical impact of that very act swatted me off one set of rails onto another.

There are plans, and there is life. As I wrote the first draft of my novel, I had plans, and then there were my characters’ lives; so many times their needs dictated the course of the novel, and I found myself surprised and delighted at unexpected twists and turns. The book is better for all the off-roading.

And my very slow revision process? Despite my initial desire to revise like a banshee, this slow return to my novel–well, it’s had me falling in love with it again as I savor passages and mull over scenes and chapters that need more character development, more work on the prose, dialogue rewriting. I’m learning about myself as I navigate this new territory called novel revision. It is very very hard work, but I am beginning to make progress, and that progress is so gratifying.

That mystery volunteer squash is coming into its own; I watch it with great intrigue as it swells and then pales. What is it? It looks more and more like a potential spaghetti squash (looks like my faithful reader Nate’s guess might be the correct one!), but it also looks like so many other kinds of squash, still.

Like that squash, I’m not sure where I’m going and where I’ll end up.

Now I am readying myself for Fall. I love Fall, but I am also dismayed because my free time is considerably scarce in Fall. I feel like I squandered my summer, even if it wasn’t entirely my fault, even if perhaps it was not my destiny to complete a revision, even if perhaps I wasn’t being realistic with my goals. Even if I managed to have some fun. Even if I have some great memories.

A girl’s allowed to have fun, right?

This pensiveness is compounded by my recent birthday. Every year, I put some thought into how I have led my life uptil this point, and how I would like to continue living my life. I like to look back and scan for lessons learned, for pivotal moments, for pivotal people, for people who loved me, and for people I love. I want to know what it is that made things better, and I like to envision more of those elements in my life, go forward.

I am thinking about people who are coming back into my life and how I would like to manage their return, and find more meaning in the initial separation. Some things in the past have taken on more clarity; enough time has now passed for me to see an additional pivotal moment now.

I am thinking of new people and new places and new experiences, and how the newness makes me feel like a child, in-love and enraptured and completely unaware of lurking danger and/or meaning.

I am happier now than I ever was. More sure of myself than I’ve ever been (even if I’m still filled with self-doubt at inopportune moments). One of the things that the last 5 years (so filled with unexpected and surprising lessons on sickness, death, and recovery) have brought me is a definite love of life, a love that I didn’t have in my earlier life, when I thought an early death might even be welcome. Now? I want to live until 100 years old. I want to be healthy all of those 100 years. I want to be happy all of those 100 years. I want to be productive. And I believe that there is a very good chance that I can be.

Even if I end up with a summer full of entirely unexpected experiences. Or maybe, this is the most pivotal summer of all.


Filed under Gardening, Life, Writing