I am changing my writing life. First of all, I am having an actual writing life rather than a writing pastime which is what I had before. I still look at sundown as the cue to start writing and start drinking, those two activities having gotten linked years ago. I’m disentangling the two, though it could take time. I am learning to write with coffee.
The biggest change, by far, is that I have stopped rushing valuable pieces to publication and started realizing that what I love in a first draft could end up being too much in the light of day like a black leather jacket with fringe on the sleeves that is badass in the dark and desperate at dawn. Patience is a new, kind of unexplored virtue for me so to have an essay laying around with different dates noted on each copy seems weird like I long ago should have sent it somewhere. Anywhere. Or published it here which, if I do, means I generally can’t have it published elsewhere. Not having that immediate – push that button! – experience after finishing a piece can be murder. No cigarette for you, Jan.
I’ve also stopped being my only critic. Today, I sat in bed and read a new essay to my husband. I asked him to look out the window and not look at me which he did and when I was done, he said, well, I’m not a writer, but I think the second half is stronger and sounds more like you, that’s where a reader would really get engaged. And, of course, this was contrary to what I thought but looking at the words on the page I saw that he was right. The first part of the story made me uncomfortable and self-conscious and it was the ending where I felt sure of myself.
So I will take the same essay to my writing group on Thursday and sit still while each person tells me what they think and they’re writers so they think a lot. The piece will be stronger for their insights and I’m now smart enough to know that. Whatever is written can be made better until it’s finished, until, as my Dad used to say, one more brush stroke would be too much.
It’s a time of change, seriousness, learning, growing up. These are ten things I am doing.
- Letting things sit.
- Reading pieces out loud.
- Joining a writing group.
- Critiquing other people’s work.
- Reading more.
- Digging deeper.
- Listening without discussing.
- Working during the day.
- Protecting other people less but enough.
- Polishing the silver.
I’m not sure where I’m going. I don’t know what the goal is. I just know I have this time and I want this life.