Saturday, June 09, 2007
as i go forward (part two of two)
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.—Thoreau
Now that we’re into June, more and more graduation 2007 photos circulate. I love seeing the familiar black robes on my friends, love sending my congratulations, like browsing the graduation displays at bookstores and gift stores. It’s been a year of being an alum (alumna?), and I’m realizing just how much has happened since last May. It’s been a full year!
As I write this, Mom is at the same Wheaton writer’s conference that I attended with her last June. That’s how this Year of Writing kicked off—a four-day conference on writing and publishing. And after that, months of working at a nearby bookstore; months of trying to balance being a writer, being a bookstore employee, and being a long-distance friend; months of otherwise organizing this new lifestyle.
We traveled (a lot!): to Nashville and Nebraska, back to Calvin, and even to Bermuda. I battled pneumonia (and still battle it, some days), and we completely redid our bathroom. And the knitting! I’ve made plenty of blankets and leg warmers this year . . . and I just began a plum-colored sweater that I hope to finish before cold weather comes again.
And then, the writing. Last November, I tried the one-month-novel challenge, something that I still have mixed feelings about. Two days ago, I reread that draft from start to finish—chockfull of clichéd prose, but with a few surprising plot twists (surprising to me, at least!) and a very few good lines.
The New York SCBWI conference in February was another writing highlight—inspiring, yes, but it also shapes the rest of this year. I’m still aiming to have a complete manuscript by early December—a goal that sounds more and more difficult as the weeks slip past, but I try not to think about that. I plan to start my second draft of the novel on June 18—I’ll keep you posted!
I’ve read wagonloads of fiction, even some non-fiction, and plenty of books on writers and writing. And then I’ve written. Scores of new files crowd my computer, pages of notes, new ideas, short story drafts, even the occasional poem. It’s been a full year.
One of the hardest things for me to accept is the shift in identity. After years of formally identifying myself as a student, now I look at that line on official forms and wince.
Well, what am I? A writer? (Will they ask, “Oh, and what have you written?” At which point my mind goes blank…) Self-employed? Unemployed? Crazy? Lazy?
Because despite everything I’ve read and done, it’s still hard to think of myself as a Writer, period. In my brain, it sounds like “Kid dressing in writer-ish clothes deceives self and others,” or “Young person scribbles sometimes; forgets book mostly.” “Would rather knit than write.” “Rarely brilliant—not what we’d hoped.”
I tell myself that I would like the comfort of a job description, that maybe the permanence of a boss would better shape these days. I get anxious, always looking over my shoulder, hoping that I’m doing this right… whatever that means.
Ah, but there’s grace here, too, if I let myself see it. How many people get a chance at living their dreams? Because when I was six and dragging around a spiral notebook, filling it with stories and drawings, I didn’t think I’d get a chance at living this way. (Actually, I didn’t think I’d ever be anything but six years old. Hm.) And now, at twenty-two, I’m still dragging around my stories, only they’re in file folders and plotting notebooks, as I try to create scenes (literary, not disruptive) and daily get better at this.
I can’t see what’s ahead for next year. I feel like there’s a big hold on my life, God-ordained. For now, I’m to stay here, to be disciplined about putting down one word after another and another. Always watching, Israelite-like, to see when the cloud lifts from the tabernacle, and then following to wherever he leads. He’ll have to take it from here.—jl