Friday, October 20, 2006

Fact, not fiction, for the first time in years.

DCFC lyrics have been running through my head lately, a sure sign that I'm in transition. Certain music accompanies me whenever I am on a physical or mental journey, and Death Cab's songs have been close companions since I discovered them seven years ago.

I'm not even sure where to begin. I find myself at a loss for words when people ask -- as they inevitably do -- what I'm up to these days. Depending on your perspective, I'm either taking a risk to pursue a dream, or wasting time when I should be focused on long-term plans. Realistically, I feel somewhere in between, but it's difficult to justify the big "U" (that's unemployed) to fast-track students here who haven't paused for breath since completing their A-levels.

My degree course wrapped up at the end of August, and I spent September in a pleasant blur, hosting my family when it came to visit, moving to Oxford, leaving for Croatia. I returned to learn that I'd done remarkably well in the program, although whether or not that will have any tangible benefits remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I'm happy that it went well, and happier still that the end result was good in spite of my very aberrant decision to turn it in a week early. AKA, *when I still had time to make it PERFECT!* Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new relationship with perfectionism, in which I grow comfortable with finishing things when I feel done instead of scouring them for every last error, when the amount of time I spend working is too great to justify the tiny improvements I make.

So, what am I up to now? I've spent the last two weeks working from home, which means I wake up around 7:30, brew a pot of coffee, and sit down at the table by 10:00 to write. Part of me hesitates to even talk about this, because I'm afraid I'll jinx it or wind up sounding like a major flake (stupid social pressure), but there you go. I have three months on my hands with no job prospects in sight and no real way to apply for any that arise: with Christmas travel, I can't exactly take a position now. ("Gee, thanks so much for the job! I'll be gone from December 6th until mid-January, okay?") School is finished, for now and possibly forever. (Although I can't really think about the finality yet.) Volunteer opportunities are sparse. So, with some much needed support from Coalescent Boy, I'm writing a novel.

Yeah, I'm serious.

It's not a great story. At this point, I'm just hoping it will be good enough for me to do something with after I finish the second draft, even if that means showing it to friends and then sticking it in a drawer. The goal at this point is simply to begin writing, to develop a daily habit, and to understand what kind of schedule I'm going to need if I want to keep writing for life. When I'm not writing, I'm mulling over what comes next, which generally means weighing the horrendously difficult "stay in the UK/go back to Seattle" decision looming in January. But for at least a few months, I'm trying out how it feels to say "I'm a writer." (It feels freaky.)

Any illusions I had about being the next great American author have been discarded, but there's a certain amount of freedom in accepting one's capabilities for what they are. I have no idea how I'm going to milk 150,000 words out of the ideas in my head -- I'm at 19,000 right now, and that already feels monumental -- but something tells me that finishing one will make it easier to start another. Think of this as a test book. Does that mean it's a throwaway? No -- I still nurture a hope that it might be publishable with a regional press, but I am starting to believe that I won't be crushed if it doesn't happen. I'll just sit back in front of the computer and start again.

There you go. I'm writing. I'm reflecting. I'm ignoring well-intended students and staff who say, "Oh...have you tried looking for a job, though?" or, "You know, there's a good PhD program in X Department." I'm trying not to think about what I should be doing to get back into the environmental world where I know I belong. I'll get there. This just isn't the place to do it, which means I probably shouldn't expend my energy fretting over nonexistent opportunities.

I've been deliberating whether to make this a matter of public record, partially because, as I mentioned, I still have qualms about saying "I'm writing" as if that's a valid adult activity. The adult part of my brain keeps muttering about how I should be doing something I know I'm good at, something safe, like more academic research. But there's a kid inside, too, and she's jabbing at the adult with her pen, insisting the adult see that writing is valid, is legitimate, is worthwhile. That kid has secret dreams she's nurtured for the last decade or two, ambitions she isn't quite willing to speak aloud. The good thing, I suppose, is that the adult in me shares those dreams, too.

So, here we go. 2000 words per day; one day off per week, a few more when I'm traveling. Draft by end of January/early February. Revisions in early March. Reviews by kindhearted people in the spring. Redraft over the summer, if readers deem it worth redrafting, and then we'll see what happens. Maybe nothing. At the very least, it's a stepping-stone for future work. At most? Well, there's where the dreaming comes into play.


Anonymous said...

That is fantastic - FANTASTIC news!!! Definitely listen to that little kid waiving the pen; she's got the right idea :)

Love and much support,
Your Stanford Bud

Anonymous said...

PS: I hope that you will add me to the list of those who get to read your novel before you even 'think' of dropping it in any drawers (as opposed to manuscript envelopes addressed to publishers)...

Meg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meg said...

Thanks, SB. I needed to hear that right now! Oh, and don't worry, you're on the list. :)

Sounds like you're swamped, but hopefully you're getting to enjoy a little breather now and then. Let me know if you'll be around at all over Christmas!

Much love, me

Auglaise said...

Go you! I think it's great that you're writing something...I completely understand the difficulty and frusteration, as last summer I did essentially the same thing. But with a partner, as the idea was both of ours. But when you get to the end? That makes everything worth it.

Even when you then ignore it for the next six months, read it again finally, and want to hit yourself in the head. ^_^