I spent the month of September recuperating from a very long, very busy, very uprooting first portion of the year. This recuperation took place in three stages.
Stage one: Sleeping. All. The. Time.
When I got back from England, it really sunk in that I had moved to the Pacific Northwest–that I had a new home. And I came down off all the adrenaline of travel and research and literally collapsed into my new bed and thought, this will do nicely. And for about two weeks, I slouched around in pajamas, going to bed between 9 and 10 pm. I did easy projects during the day–cooking, watching undemanding TV, sorting magazine clippings for artwork, reading lovely books. I also rebooted my couch to 5k running program way back at week 4, doing basic interval training that took me out into forest preserves and wetlands.
Slowly, over the two weeks, my energy levels reset and restored. My bedtime moved out to a more usual 11 pm to midnight, and my mind and body started craving more work.
Stage Two: Reintroducing work
Some of the work I reintroduced was practical. I set up a tutoring website, which I can launch if Varsity Tutors runs out of clients to send me. And I signed a new contract with VT and began working with some students on the ACT.
But most of the “work” I reintroduced centered around the 24 hour clock I posted about a while back. I set up a proper meal plan with alternating protein and carbohydrate days to fuel my running program as it becomes more demanding. I added yoga and at-home fitness routines to my schedule. I recaptured and solidified my connection to the natural world, with journaling and study.
I wrote my fool head off, morning, noon, and night.
And it felt particularly wonderful, because I didn’t place any restrictions on myself. I wrote what was in my heart without stopping to wonder if it was responsible or worthwhile or practical, just like I used to do in high school. Just as I’ve been trying to write for years.
When I stopped and looked at what I had produced, a few things became quite clear to me:
First, that I owe myself a few months away from my dissertation, working on creative projects. I flipped my long-term writing schedule on its head and set a deadline for my return to academic writing. Then I spent a day meditating and resolving to not feel guilty about this decision. And I don’t.
Second, that it’s not enough to write things for myself and shove them into binders. If I’m going to make a go of creative authorship, I have to research publishing and find writing contests and put my ideas out there into the world. So…
Stage Three: Opening myself to criticism
…rejuvenated, with restored self-worth and confident goals, I looked over the writing I finished and selected two short stories to submit to friends and family for feedback and then to creative writing contests. After that, I sat around grinning like a fool for about three days, because the last time I submitted a fiction piece to a contest was in 2003. I had broken the spell.
One of the submissions was a practice run: I sent a ghost story, which I don’t normally write, to a blog specific to that type of fiction. I was absolutely floored when I heard back from the editor. Although I didn’t win, he offered me feedback!! Namely, he said that my descriptions of place and state of mind are “spot on,” and my dialog is “terrific.”
I about died.
His critique was that the story didn’t create suspense; it just made him feel impatient. I’m very happy he confirmed that for me, because I had my suspicions, haha. Pacing has never been my strong suit, but now I know where to keep working. I sent him a thank you note.
The second of my submissions came from my Energist world, and I I feel like it was the stronger of the two stories. So, until I hear back on that one in December, I’m cultivating careful optimism.
In the meantime, I’m hard at work on the first Energist novel. I finished a chapter as part of my outpouring of words–putting me at 20% first-draft completion–and last night I sat down and re-outlined the whole thing based on what I’ve been reading about plot and pacing.
I now have full conflict-crisis-resolution arcs for each character, and I’ve fit them together into the arc of the novel and diagrammed the overlapping plot lines. I woke up this morning with new scenes in mind and a fully visualized end to the novel, so I’d say this was a very useful exercise.