New Year Reflection and Resolution, Part IV: Writing

While there is, of course, plenty of room for improvement, and while I could certainly use a little more discipline here and there (particularly when it comes to idly staring at effbook when I could/should be getting to work in the mornings), I feel as though I've traveled miles when it comes to my work habits as a writer. I'm not even sure I had what could be called habits as a writer, for decades -- if I had any, they were bad habits -- despite having attended graduate school for writing, despite having some brief luck with publishing a poem or two, despite naming myself a writer even though I certainly didn't, by my definition, act like one.

Since the inception of this blog -- since the summer before my sabbatical -- I've developed the habit of waking and making some movement toward my writing -- be it through the act of writing itself (working on poems, or writing a post here), or reading (which, as my students will tell you, because I beat it into their heads incessantly, I consider integral to being a writer), or preparing my work for submission to magazines (or, as with this year, book contests).

I'm sure someone like my mother would laugh at this because I've made it known since I was very small that I wanted to be a writer. I wrote a truly terrible fantasy novel somewhere around sixth grade/middle school, and it's been a very slow, painful incline in terms of quality and quantity since then (one could only go up from that point on, really). But I wanted to be a writer without doing much of the real work of a writer -- up until the past few years. Yeah, it only took me two decades or so to deduce that if I was going to be a writer I was going to have to actually write. 

My nearest and dearest have generously reminded me that I had "a lot going on" within the last ten years and told me that I should be easier on myself for not writing as much as I could during that time. And yes, getting married and beginning a career and having children does tend to occupy a great number of one's hours and days. I realize the necessity and inevitability of that. And I feel enormously lucky (despite my relative groaning over the past three posts) to have my job as a professor of writing, to have the relationship that I do with my husband, and to have two really rather adorable children (even if, between the two of them, this house is rarely silent). 

It's with -- not quite regret -- because I can't imagine my life happening any other way than it has -- but some wistfulness that I wish I'd developed a little more discipline and squeezed in some daily writing time during the past ten years. It kind of amazes me that I didn't have a regular kind of schedule carved out during grad school  -- the one time in my life, other than my recent sabbatical, I was granted the chance to do nothing but write. I think that I was too young, though, too immature, when I entered grad school, for that kind of self-discipline. And there was a good deal of fear and intimidation, too: many of my peers were extremely talented, and highly motivated, and many of my writing instructors and mentors were people I'd read in undergrad and never imagined I'd meet, let alone hold a conversation with. 

Grad school was very formative, however -- even though there were lessons from my courses, or little bits of wisdom handed down from those mentors, that didn't fully sink in or take hold in my mind until recently, until nearly six or seven years later, when I reflected on them as I began to finally, finally, take the act of writing (the act of my writing, the ownership of my writing) seriously.

So I guess that's where I find myself right now: grateful that I've arrived at this point, where I feel more immersed in my writing than ever before, where I feel more in control of my writing. It seems odd to think about a writer not feeling ownership of his or her writing, or feeling out of control when it comes to one's writing, but there it is. That's what my writing life felt like for, well, most of it.

Hopefully I won't lose this new-found sense of ownership/control any time soon, 'cause I like it! I feel more confident, however, as I enter this next phase of my life (our third child being born; the associate prof. years of my teaching career) that I'll be able to keep myself invested and involved in my writing career, too. I guess I feel more like I'm going to have a writing career now. And this feeling comes not from recent luck with publications -- although those are certainly confidence-boosting and happy-making -- but from a sense of actively working toward that career: a sense of being immersed in the work, of never being far from it, of being a practitioner. (That last word sounds kind of clinical and horrible to me as I write it, but it's probably the word that rings with the most accuracy right now.)

And it's funny: I felt it necessary to write those three very long posts that reflected on academia last week, but I don't feel a similar need to write as much about the act of writing, or about what I'm doing with my writing. I mean, I have done that above, and I will do that as I conclude this post, but I'm probably not going to use three consecutive days to outline my thoughts on the subject. In fact, while I've enjoyed and am enjoying this "Week of Reflection and Resolution" here on the blog, I'm beginning to feel the desire to just get on with the writing itself: not the blog writing, but the poetry writing. 

My resolution, then, with regards to my writing, is to keep doing more of the same. I want to end 2013 with this same sense of satisfaction. But in a more practical, accountable sense, I'd like for this to be the Year of the Verse Play -- where I make real headway with this project. It's been -- god -- four years since its inception, and I still don't have a real, tangible draft of the thing. Of course, I'm okay with that, because while I don't have a completed play I have instead a complete full-length manuscript of poems;  I have, too, a more clear, concrete idea of what I want the play to be than I did when I first conceived of it; and I feel that the past two years spent really, intently studying metrical verse has been incredibly productive, and left me better equipped to write this thing. I feel, let's say, up to the task.

If I can manage it, too, I'd like to write that article about the Poetry of Witness. It's time to get back to that, I think -- and to see if I can finish it before Vampire Baby makes her appearance in the world. If I can spend the next two weeks before school begins balancing my writing and reading time between the Verse Play project and the Poetry of Witness article, I think I'll be very content, and in a good place, mentally, to begin the Spring 2013 semester.


Elizabeth said…
While you are at least ten years younger than I am chronologically, you are at least ten years older than I am in terms of writerly maturity. I have been writing a blog post about these same issues, minus the husband and children and MFA program (which is maybe NOT the answer to all my discipline issues?), but focusing on this idea (the reality?) of being, finally, a writer, even though you've known you want to be a writer since you picked up a pencil the first time. I learn so much from you!

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