Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pain, relief

This time I am not going to harp on about how much planning I did, and how little doing. I am less productive, by the year, than what I am realizing was a golden period of flourishing proliferation. It may just be unrealistic to capture all of that again. Or maybe I should be searching for the rocket fuel that propelled me through all of those words and pages those years back.

I have not written a single page on the sci-fi manuscript since last Fall. I went into grad school applications after completing the ten chapters, reached a stopping point, and thought I had laid all the ground work to get right back on that horse after I received all my feedback (read: rejections). And now here I am, a good few months after I finished submitting the last of the paperwork, and not one page.

Instead, I went looking down a dry well, and found some poetry in myself. Going back to that form was sudden, unexpected, and fulfilling. I discussed the phenomenon with a friend who just as occasionally writes music. I am not a poet, is what I decided. I believe, as I told him, that a poet can force it. I believe a poet can wake up every day and find some gem of inspiration in how dawn dew mingles with powdery pollen, or the grim determination of a spider rebuilding its web, ambitiously in the path of more human progress. Me, my poetry is like mid 30s back pain. It comes, sometimes strong sometimes not, and stays, for a day, or maybe part of a season, then, one day I wake up and it's gone off some place else. So, I prefer to say that I have written poetry, implying that it may never happen again, and is often a surprise when it does anew.

I also broke down and committed to some critiques. One writer's group I belonged to, and never attended, closed. Another decided to move all of its infrastructure to social media. We meet, but it seems like we hardly ever do anything productive, however this could be because I go so infrequently. But stories are cropping up on the web page, titles with buttons below them begging to be pushed, preview, download, upload revision. After five or six submissions, one of them my own, I waited for something else to happen, something new. Nothing did. So, I scrolled to the bottom of the list, sighing the entire time, downloaded the first one, read, and critiqued. I reached out to the author to ask about whether they wanted my feedback at all. Then I moved onto the next, and the next. Like I was experiencing that circle again, I recalled my memories in my workshops over the years. It was not unpleasant.

For my own submission, two people not in the group were nice enough to give mine a once over. Well, thrice over. In the beginning they used words like "confusing" with facial expressions that were searching, reaching, then more quickly, "let me read it again." Ultimately, it seems like for the most part, they understood, but there was no confidence in their understanding. "Yeah, that's what I thought was going on," after I explained, then "but" and they paused, and thought, and shook their heads. One of them, even with all of that, used the word fun, and asked to read other things I had written as well. It seems like an objective success, albeit it a mild one, yet I did not come away feeling like what I wanted to transmit was received. I am not sure, thinking back, of what I was hoping for.

And of course, I lied. A friend asked me if I was still writing every day. I said yes, without even pausing. Over the following days I thought about just how big of a lie that was. About what writing was. Did I think about my stories every day? Yes. Did I think about how to improve other stories I had come across every day? Yes. Did I read every day? Yes. And yet, not a single page more.

Rare dinner company reminisced with me about our first meetings with one another. "I did not realize then," he said, "to what extent you were driven to create stories." Early the following week, after ruminating, I asked him if he had meant that as a compliment. "Neutrally," he said. "I meant it as a statement of fact. You wouldn't be you without it." I wouldn't be me, he said.

All of these are like little resolutions, stamped by date and time, cast into the well of infinity to echo at whatever volume. I stood up tall, and made more plans. Then, the first found of edits finally arrived for my fifth book. More excuses. More sighing. 

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