Finally, here is the obligatory New Year’s lecture on writing daily, writing with discipline, getting the work out there, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. It is but it isn’t. I really just want to share with you what I did this January to try to get myself back in writing mode after moving to a different state. I mean that in both a physical and mental way.
Let’s see, how to keep all this in one paragraph. We moved my parents first, from Little Rock to Dallas. Then we sold our house in Fayetteville, AR. We moved everything we owned including 4 dogs, 4 beehives, and a business to a small rental house outside a small town in the mountains of WNC. We hunted for a new house and finally found the one we could fall in love with. We moved (4 dogs, 6 beehives now, and the business), and are still moving in. Actually, there are two houses on the land, both of which required renovation and repair. We are still in that process. Meanwhile, several family members (in both our families) died or got very ill. A favorite niece got married in Dallas. We both have traveled far, even after the long move here, both in body and mind. Whew! That’s the short version. Perhaps you can imagine the effect this had on my writing.
When I felt I just could not get underneath my writing and push up shoots on my own any longer, I signed up for an online class. I have never done, or even entertained, the idea of doing such a thing. Taking classes at universities is bad enough, at least in my experience. How much more difficult would it be online when they didn’t have to look in your face to say something bad about your writing? But I needed help and I knew it. So I ignored my fears and signed up for “Writer’s Boot Camp” through Creative Nonfiction’s online workshop program. I’m in the first week and trying hard not to be the Type A student who does all the homework as perfectly as possible and takes all day to write 300 words.
Daily I have to remind myself that this is not a test. I paid $250 to take this 6 week course and I get to do it (or not) however I like. This reminder simply keeps me from getting too anal about it all. Already I have written two little essays and the teacher, who I am sure is overwhelmed at the number of students, has not yet commented on mine. This both hurts my feelings and is a great relief. Since I don’t know what she’ll say, I stew about it. She has been nice to the 3 or 4 people whose work she commented on. She seemed helpful and upbeat.
I am a writer and have been practicing hard at it for 20 years now, but one would not think so to see me all aquiver. Really, I act as if my life, my entire writing career, hinges on a few words by a teacher I never even heard of. (I’m sure she would not like me ending my sentences in all these prepositions. Although, how would I know since she has not commented on my writing yet.)
Can you believe this? How worked up I am after 3 days, THREE DAYS, of my online course. Perhaps this was a mistake. Perhaps I’m not ready to write and receive any critique at this particular juncture in my life. Perhaps I needn’t worry as she may never get around to my essays. Maybe she hates them. Maybe she doesn’t even read them. Then why the heck am I doing this?
I am sharing all this with you under the duress of great embarrassment. But I wanted you to know you aren’t alone in your writerly anxiety. Even those of us who have been writing for years and live under the illusion that we are fairly good at it, can freak out when we move outside our comfort zone. This seems to be a time in my life when that has become necessary. I may not have a choice, so I may as well go all the way. Taking a course, online or in a classroom, is a great way to test your own mettle. Writing under the gaze of others, writing under pressure, writing with a deadline, and most of all writing with your true voice and remaining open to suggestions and criticism from others is not for the faint of heart. But it is important for the real writer to attempt once in awhile. I can’t think of any better way to get yourself in shape than to go to bootcamp, do some metaphorical pull-ups, stand before the drill master and take note, help your mates and allow yourself to be helped by them.
Last of all, don’t forget to rebel a bit. Since the prof in this case has written that she will not critique any of your work unless you do 3 out of the 5 300-word exercises per week and the 1000 word essay over the weekend, I felt the need to not write one today. Besides, it was on “breaking a rule” and I have broken all the rules all my life. This would be nothing new. It was a goal of mine as a child, and I have accomplished it. I didn’t know which broken rule to pick, so I broke my own about writing every essay I was given in this class. In order to write this blog for you today.
I expect I will break this rule weekly. And really, I feel better for it already.