Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My weekly deadline was pushed up a day because Thanksgiving is this week and we get two paid days off! I probably would've used a personal day or something because this year I am:
1. Not covering Day-after-Thanksgiving shopping madness, and
2. Going home! Whooo-hoo!
I missed Thanksgiving with my fam last year because I felt "overwhelmed" by work and school and decided to forgo making a trip home — what an idiot! I'll never forgive myself for that blunder. My holiday turned out okay and I shared a nice meal at the home of my former roommate Daisy's boyfriend in Marin County (did you catch all of that?). Anyway, I've been feeling lately like I really need a few days to sleep in and chill out and maybe, just maybe read a book... for fun and personal enrichment! I read all the time, but it's mostly for work or school. Plus, my Economist has been piling up!
So last night, my classmates reviewed my "final project" for a literature class I'm taking about texts written in the first person. I came up with a concept for the piece that I was totally excited about involving letter correspondence between my main character and her dead father. (It totally seemed brilliant when I came up with that, I swear). So then of course, I sat down to write the thing, which always takes me longer than I anticipate or budget for -- ah the life of a procrastinator. The piece, like all my story submissions, ended up being more of a rough-draft than it should have been. I was so horrified when I turned it in, but I had to turn it in —typos and all — because it was due. I felt completely demoralized by the fact that I waited until a few days before my SEMESTER project was due to get going.
Just last weekend, I attended an event at Mills called Professional Survival Weekend that has lots of workshops on publishing, teaching and other potential avenues for making use of an MFA degree. I sat in these workshops, hour after hour, and was also given five minutes with a real literary agent who told me my book idea needs a lot more development. I was not shocked or crushed, but my huge fear that going to grad school might have been a waste of time for me crept back in. I decided to go to grad school for writing so that I could become a "serious writer," which I could have done without grad school (most successful writers didn't go to grad school). But, I thought the grad school experience would help me get motivated and force me to write. I would say that has happened, but I'm also disappointed that I'm not as dedicated to my writing as I should be and have basically been treating it like homework I have to do. I also feel like I should be pushing myself so much harder because once grad school ends, I'll be left on my own again — no classmates or professors. I've made some connections, of course, that I think will survive my time at Mills, but what am I waiting for? I could die tomorrow and never finish my book! That is a real fear I live with. I should be a "serious writer" right now, today! But I'm not.
My mother once told me I make her nervous because I have no fear. "You're not afraid of anything," she said as if it was a bad thing. That was back when I was in college and chosen to move to a state 2,500 miles from home where I knew one and then proceeded to travel to far-off places like Lima and Paris. My first job out of college took me to the glamorous Kansas City, Missouri, to write for the KC Star which I thought was sooo cool because that's where Hemingway started his writing career. I had so much more hope back then. My mother begrudgingly supported all of my adventures, but nonetheless thought I was reckless and crazy. As I've gotten older, I've realized there are a lot of things I'm afraid of — losing my career, losing loved ones, falling in love and succeeding at writing. When I was a kid, I pictured myself becoming a full-time novelist living in mansion I paid for with lucrative book sales. I literally pictured that happening. Little did I know few people have that experience. Now I'll be happy if I can write the second chapter of the "book" I'm working on. I write "book" in quotes because I have moments during which I become afraid that my project will not go anywhere or will suck even if completed.
I think I've become complacent about fear. I've convinced myself to lower my productivity and success standards in lieu of putting 100 percent into endeavors that matter. I've learned to live with and manage my fear and the result is mediocrity. I've been thinking about these things lately because I'm sad I haven't worked harder in grad school and it's almost over.
I hope my holiday provides a much-needed breather. Maybe my mom and I should have a chat. I'll ask her if she still thinks I'm fearless.

1 comment:

blythe said...

Blanca, it sounds like you are overwhelming yourself! You don't need to write a novel tomorrow. Baby steps, girl. Just write down some ideas ...

I wrote a children's novel recently, which I self-published. It took a couple of years. I still sure wouldn't consider myself a "serious" writer, but I took it slow, and things were manageable. You can do this.