Monday, May 9, 2016

Read Less, Write More (a Mid-Year Resolution)

Day Two of my new summer writing regimen, and I'm back in the B&N cafe with a London Fog and my laptop.  While I certainly don't plan to work from here every day this summer, I find that when I'm trying to reboot my discipline, knowing I can go somewhere I enjoy and get a drink that gives me a caffeine boost (and tastes delicious) gives me a little extra incentive to get moving when that hateful alarm goes off at six thirty (one of the parts of Kiddo being in school that I won't miss.)  Also, it can be helpful (when my discipline/attention span are struggling) to work in a space with no distractions. Sure there are people milling around and chatting (well, not this early, but they're coming), but at home it can be difficult to resist the call of the laundry or the cat or -- let's be honest -- the sofa.  Here, there's nothing to do but keep my butt in the (very uncomfortable) chair and write.  So until I get back in a rhythm, I'll be here trying to stretch out one tall London Fog and make myself invisible.  Like Friday, I am using my blog post as a way to write my way into my work for the day. Fingers crossed that I'm soon at the point where I can do my fiction writing first and use my (fun...well, fun for me, anyway) blog stuff as a reward for my hard work.  But I'm not there yet, and that's okay for now.

Enjoy this image because the wifi here is dragging this morning.  It's all your getting.

As often happens when I sit down to blog on a semi-regular basis (as opposed to when I have a specific bone to pick), I don't have a specific topic in mind when I break out my laptop -- unless it's to puzzle over why Google Play is so convinced I need to listen to Saint Saens' Bacchanale EVERY time I use it.  I'm seriously having youth orchestra flashbacks.  So today, let's talk about writing, my writing (or lack thereof.)  It may not be the most riveting topic, but if it helps with my accountability, then I'm willing to let you suffer through.  (Aren't I a sweetheart?)

Five years ago this summer (how is that possible?) I completed my MFA program after a consecutive six-year run of college (undergrad + grad).  It was with a strange combination of triumph and profound sadness that I attended my final commencement.  I'm one of those weirdos who likes to be in school.  Nay, I love it.  If I were rich, I would be student for the rest of my life, taking tests, writing papers, meeting deadlines, reading dense prose, and turning in creative work with pride and trepidation.  Alas, I am decidedly not rich.  And so I exited the academic world (as a student, anyway) and returned to normal life.  It is also worth noting that during my MFA I had Kiddo, who was eighteen months old when I graduated.

For six years, I read and I wrote constantly.  I was disciplined.  I was focused.  I was so very happy. Of course, there was a part of me that was relieved about the end of deadlines and class schedules (mostly the parent of a toddler part, I'm sure), but  I was totally blindsided by the writing paralysis that struck me almost the moment I was handed that diploma.  For at least six months, I couldn't write.  I was sad, bone-deep sad, about not being in school.  I was terrified to write without the safety net of my brilliant faculty mentors.  There were no more deadlines beyond those I set for myself.  And on top of everything else, my brain felt like it was slowly turning to sludge as I cared for my toddler (the preschool programming on tv probably didn't help that.)

I did manage to eventually shake free of the paralysis (mostly anyway), and I've had spurts of productivity (though that productivity has not included sending out my work.)  I'm blessed with writing friends and mentors nearby, and toddlers do eventually become preschoolers that allow for more free time (Preschool FTW!).  There is no way to plan, however, for the time-wrecker that is illness.  Nothing can make you feel defeated (and totally brainless) quite like being laid up in bed and heavily drugged.  I've yet to figure out a way to work through that fog.  And don't even get me started on motivation when you're life is constantly interrupted by illness.  It can all feel so pointless as you work/live with the constant fear of sickness lurking just around the corner.  It all becomes a bit of a self-defeating circle.

But, this summer I am trying to put all of this out of mind (hoping this post serves as a bit of a mind/memory cleanse) and start yet again.  Ass-in-seat every day (or least every week day.)  Never mind the times Ive tried this and been defeated.  I can't think about that.  It just leads to more paralysis, more guilt, more feelings of worthlessness.  Basically, an environment completely unconducive to writing.  Hence the whole B&N habit and my long post about nothing. (On an unrelated note, Google Play just gave me yet another youth orchestra flashback with Capriccio Espanol.  What's going on today?)

Lest you think that I've been sitting around feeling sorry for myself the past few years, au contraire.  I may not have been writing with anything that resembles regularity, but I've been reading the hell out of some books.  And not just any books.  I like to have a plan (no surprise there.)  There's the Books You Should've Read in School category.  Also, there was #readwomen2014 and an overall conscious effort to read more diversely in general.  I read with a purpose, an eye to the writing, dissecting the work to see what makes it work (and doesn't.)  A couple of years ago, I even started keepimg track of the books I read.  No idea why I wasn't doing that before; it's such a me, achievement-oriented thing.

In addition to my ongoing reading plans, I have a writing plan for this summer.  I should have three stories ready to start sending out by the end of summer (if I stick to it.)  One story has been in editing stages for somewhere in the neighborhood of three years (so very sick of this story), one is an old story I want to overhaul and make something of, and the third is a new piece that I'm working on right now (well, when I'm not writing this blog entry.)

So that's where I am with my writing just now.  It remains to be seen how many London Fogs and Kind bars will have to give their lives in aid of my goal.  Now, it's time to get to some fiction writing, and when I just can't write anymore (or they throw me out of the cafe), I'm prepared for that too.  I've got Ellison's Invisible Man in my bag (another check off my missed classics list) with only 130 pages to go.

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