a writing update

I haven’t updated about my writing in quite awhile.  As most of you know, I decided to take a break in May from the whole writing thing for several months since I was feeling so overwhelmed with all of the expectations I was placing on myself – I found balancing a full-time job plus writing plus all assorted life-things too much for me to handle and I decided simply to take some time off and do nothing more than work, exercise and enjoy my friends and family.

I am not sure how this would have turned out under other circumstances but under these, in particular, I found myself almost immediately pregnant and very thankful I had allowed myself this break since I was too tired to do much more than work, anyway.  A lot went by the wayside during this time, including housework, and I am glad I didn’t have the extra pressure of self-imposed writing deadlines since the most I could seem to handle was coming home from work, chatting with S.and immersing myself in (as I believe I’ve mentioned) “House” reruns.

Sometime in late July or early August I began surfacing, and I realized that if I don’t write, if I ceased completely ( which I was considering) I would probably grow into a very depressed person. Firstly, there isn’t that much on tv that interests me to fill in the time I would usually spend writing and secondly, I am not the kind of person who would do something else instead of writing. I didn’t throw myself into do-it-yourself home repair or join a pottery class or even really get all baby crazy, apart from a couple small purchases and a couple of books. The truth is, nothing else interests me as much as reading and writing and I don’t feel entirely normal, not writing.

It was an easy decision to return to this blog – even if I don’t update as frequently as I used to I still love the blogging community and I intend for my blog to be around for a long, long time with some periods much busier than others. It wasn’t as easy deciding what to do about the bulk of my writing – the essays and novel I’ve been working on for years. I didn’t feel, as one of my old writing teachers used to refer to it, pure writerly joy in my projects anymore. While I know that joy comes and goes throughout the writing process, I honestly couldn’t imagine feeling it again for any of my past work.  I took the month of September to read through my essays and my novel and come up with a plan for the future of my personal writing, and this is what I decided: I’m starting anew. All the writing I’ve done in the last decade (since I truly started in earnest after college) is crap and I hate it and I’m considering it one long decade of practice. It’s boxed up and put away. I apologize if I promised you an opportunity to read some of it – trust me when I say I’m saving you a lot of pain. Two full books, one nonfiction and the other fiction, various short stories and essays, and I can’t stand any of it. It reads like practice writing to me. My novel, in particular – I’m so glad I wrote it. I really am – but it is SUCH a first novel, basically my fictionalized autobiography with every writing technique known to man thrown in – I NEEDED to write it so I could get over it, and I did, and I proved to myself I could write a novel.  I actually think my MFA manuscript is a tad bit better and might have had some moments to salvage if I had pursued it rigorously after graduate school but now most of the material is dated…it’s very post 9/11.

Nope, it’s time for new work, for better work. In boxing up all my writing from the last decade I’ve managed to tap into that pure writerly joy again – I have so many ideas I want to pursue, so many projects to tackle. What’s more, I think I’ve struck, for once, a reasonable work/life/writing/exercise balance and one that I think will be maintainable even after I have the baby. At the very least, I won’t be beating myself up when I’m NOT  writing, and that’s a pretty big step forward for me.

I still plan on blogging about my writing and my goals on this blog…ironically it was the original intention of this space.  So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am slowly starting a new novel, one that will be modeled nothing like a Pat Conroy or Isabel Allende novel and is, I truly believe, a novel only I could write. My other goals for the month of October? To re-subscribe to one literary journal, and to find one writing contest/request for submission that I could actually enter, and do so. I’ll report back at the end of the month to let you know how I’ve faired.

Happy writing, all!

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7 Responses to a writing update

  1. Your goals sound lovely. Look forward to hearing more as you take further steps into the process.

  2. Stefanie says:

    I imagine it was a hard decision to pack up all that old writing, but how exciting to allow yourself to start fresh. And you have probably learned so much in the process that your new goals are sure to be successful.

  3. litlove says:

    What a coincidence – a couple of days ago I wrote an assessment of my writing, too. I know how you feel – I wrote my last fiction novel after my son was born, realised it just wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do, and took the decision then to focus entirely on academic writing. I’m glad I did, because it was the right call and the next ten years taught me a lot. And then, after the academics I found a way back to more general writing again. I needed all that journey.

    What you’ve just boxed up will have taught you masses, too, and I think there is no other way to learn than by the act of writing. When you start on something new, you’ll see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown.

  4. Kristi says:

    I have done that before. It’s very freeing.

  5. Courtney says:

    Charlotte – thanks! I will definitely keep things updated around here.
    Stefani – it was a hard decision – one I continually think about, but in my heart I know it was the right one for now.
    Litlove -writing really is a journey, and I know that spending much time on my “old” stuff would be about as productive as wallowing in nostalgia.
    Kristi – freeing is the perfect word!

  6. shoreacres says:

    I’ve been pondering this for days, and finally, this morning – insight! Bear with me.

    You know I varnish boats for a living. Every now and then I get a customer whose boat varnish is in that “in-between” state. It’s too degraded to just sand and revarnish, but it’s not quite a total, unbearably ugly mess.

    More often than not, the customer (who wants to save money, time, aggravation and such) will say, “Let’s just repair this, rather than taking it down to bare wood and starting over.”

    Over the years, I’ve learned my lesson about that one. If you try to repair a varnish job that really needs to be stripped off, it never looks right. Sometimes it looks like a leopard, sometimes it looks like repaired varnish. It never, ever looks good.

    The problem is, when that repaired varnish doesn’t look good, I don’t look good. “Who did your varnish?”, someone says. And then my name gets mentioned, and someone thinks my work is awful.

    Nope. No more of that scenario. When someone who needs to start over asks me to “make do” with what is, I say no. I tell them what they need to do, and if they don’t want me to do what needs to be done, they can find someone else.

    It’s a long, long journey toward the confidence to turn down work. But in the end, producing beautiful work gets me far more customers than I can handle.

    Sorry to run on so, but I just can’t get over the parallel! (Not only that, I believe I have me a draft to put in my blog files!)

  7. Pingback: Salon Saturday « No Credentials Necessary

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