The Struggle

When I was trapped on the plane ride of doom, I spent the first hour, once we were in the sky, sitting quietly and thinking. I had already finished all of my reading material and didn’t have my ipod, so I had the opportunity to just sit with my own thoughts. Once I got over my recurring “how my wedding will go” fantasy, I started thinking about writing, something I mostly think about in relation to guilt. I write here, and I edit over at APW, but what I really DO is write fiction, except the doing of that is really fucking difficult. I’ve said it a million times before, it’s hard, but it’s more than that – writing is a constant struggle.

Kamel commented the other day that he couldn’t believe that someone as inpatient as me (guilty!), would have a career that takes decades or lifetimes to achieve. I told him there were plenty of amazing, small victories in writing that propel me forward, the small journals and magazines that publish work, knowing that someone out there is reading what you’ve wrote, the feedback of fellow writers. Things I have not had a lot of lately, because I popped out of grad school with a novel and not a batch of short stories to send off to the world. A novel I am not satisfied with, yet don’t have the energy to tackle.

The other thing I did on that plane ride of doom was read an entire Oprah Magazine (while I waited to take off). The theme this month? Finding your calling. One article said to make a list of all the things you were doing when you felt absolutely fulfilled, absolutely content, when your entire attention was on one thing and you were completely sucked in. First, let me make it very clear that temping is not my calling, not fulfilling, and something I don’t want to do for the rest of my life (or the year, but bills cry louder than my pride). When have I been really, really happy? When I’m writing. Without distraction. Without guilt. When I’m creating something, when I’m reading a fabulous book, when I have the time to sit alone and imagine something so real people can believe it’s really true.

And then one of my favorite people, Margaret, started to get things published. Short stories and essays, even won prizes. And although it made me really proud, it also made me a little sad. Because what am I doing? I’m over a year out of grad school and still, nothing published, not even a short story satisfactorily finished. The only way to change what I’m currently doing is to get off my ass and act. And I can’t do it 1/2 ass, and I can’t do it by setting unrealistic goals (writing everyday? Not at this point in my life). And I have to do it where someone other than me holds me to some sort of accountability. So now on saturday mornings, no matter what, as if it’s a date set and non-reschedule-able in my calendar, I leave the house, and meet Margaret online at a coffee shop somewhere in the city, and we write. And then we send each other the work for the day for critique and feedback, for cheering on, for direction, for sanity.

And now what do I have? About 3 new ideas. Which means my well has not run dry, even though I have worried on multiple occasions that maybe my peak was at 19. I don’t think that’s true.

And now, because I am a writer first, because if I don’t do this then really, I’m not all that qualified or good at much of anything else, I’m going to start sharing bits of my writing here. You’ll get to see the other side of me, the pretend side of me, the side of me I would love to be known for, but at present is just a heap of potential.

Excerpt from Bon Fille

She loved the word jetlag, the way it meant you had gone beyond your usual existence. The way it meant you had been somewhere, seen something, and seeing and doing that something meant that now you had to recover. She liked the way it felt in her mouth and liked the way it sounded when she said it out loud, like she was in a movie with Humphrey Bogart.

And…

“Don’t worry, I was the same way after my month in Spain. I couldn’t get over how everyone in the states went to bed so fuck-ing early.” Her friends were the kind of people who placed emphasis on bad words and who used gratuitous gesticulation. Her friends were also more like acquaintances.

“The sun practically never sets in the summer, in Paris,” she said.

“The city of lights, they say.” Her friend’s own large bag hung flaccid at her side.

“Some people do, yes.” How could anyone really understand Paris, she thought, especially those who said cliché things like that.

9 thoughts on “The Struggle”

  1. Those big career goals are scary. I definitely know what you’re talking about. We know we have potential too, but it’s hard when you are only accountable to yourself.

    I think you are setting really good realistic goals. Having a writing friend to help push and support each other should help you a lot. A little writing each week and you’ll get there!

    And please post more of your writing! I love it.

  2. First of all, I think every issue of Oprah magazine is about finding your true calling. Or your best life. Or your heart’s happiness. Or whatever. I mean, the woman is not wrong, but she is a tad redundant. (Please don’t smite me, Oprah.)

    But second, YES. A little accountability goes a long way. “See” you Saturday. 🙂

    1. ha! it’s true. But this time I couldn’t just SKIM it, I had to read every single word and take it all to heart because the alternative was staring out the plane window watching the lightening.

      I can’t help it, Oprah, you get under my skin and tap into all my vulnerabilities!

  3. That was a great issue (and they are not always that good). I found the Elizabeth Gilbert peice the most helpful, I think, from where I stand this second.

    And yes, you need to be writing and sharing, and realizing that a year out of grad school is NOTHING. These things take time. Sometimes years and years of time. And that’s ok. It’s a good thing even.

    1. It was really great. As much as I roll my eyes sometimes at oprah, she does the “find yourself” thing really well. And I had a LOT of time to think on that flight so it was pretty much the perfect timing to give myself a swift kick in the butt.

  4. Thank you for sharing! Just happened upon your blog after visiting APW. I have been feeling pretty “stuck” career-wise, and this post was really honest and helpful. Love the idea of blocking off Saturday mornings for your writing.

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