I realized a few days ago that it’s been a decade (!!) since I took my dream of writing seriously. Considering that I still like to think of myself as a recent college grad even though I left Bates in 2001, the fact that I’ve been doing anything, including drinking legally, for more than a hot second is confounding to me.
Also confounding at times: why I stick with writing.
My path to where I am in this craft has been both good and bad, like most. At 24, I took a Gotham Writer’s Workshop class in NYC to see if my hunch that I could write some of the very books I was reading for my first job in publishing was true. The truth (or not) of this theory aside, that one 8-week class rekindled my love of an art form I’d abandoned around the age of twelve, when my thoughts were muddied with things like boys, grades, being cool, and eventually college, where I again worried about boys, grades, and being cool.
From there I went on to get my MFA at Lesley University, specializing in Writing for Young People. I worked full-time through my two-and-a-half years of grad school, which was both a blessing and a curse. I never was able to get the hours of writing time I’d dreamt of, as juggling a 40+ hour a week job doesn’t allow for such luxuries. But neither does life and working while in school made me carve out time to get a few thousand words down before 7am, a habit I still try to stick to.
But lest you think that my writing life has been rosy, consider this: I signed with an agent in 2008 and have since seen two projects I love not get picked up. In 2011, I published an essay on Salon, after which I was torn apart by reviewers who practically wished for my death. I’ve since sent out a number of essays, and received more form letters than I care to count. And last but not least my novella, which I’m damn proud of, hasn’t been the overwhelming success I’d have hoped. That is, none of the major publishers have yet called to offer me a six-figure advance.
So why do I keep going? I’m not going to get all dramatic and preach that writing is breathing for me. It’s not. I’ve gone months without putting down a single word. But I always go back because writing calms me. Or at least I think it does. Despite how frustrating the craft is, or how hurt and rejected I’ve felt at the hands of nameless reviewers who have a 69 in their screen name, I feel better when I’ve strung together a few sentences.
This is about the time in these types of posts where I should dispense some advice, but ten years on, I’m not sure I’m qualified to do so. To be completely honest, half the time I’m not even sure what I’m doing, which I think is okay, even necessary, for a writer to get better.
So in the meantime, to work on my own journey as well as that of my character’s, I’ll just keep typing.