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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Butterflying Around

Just do it, to borrow from Nike. I'm going to keep blogging, even if my ideas are a little thin right now. I'm in one of those writing dithers that infects my whole life. Projects are stalled. Confidence is low. I'm butterflying around, landing on this thought or that worry. I'm trying to get some consistent paying writing work, wondering if I should go back to the novel I'm working on, or start a new story in my collection of interconnected short stories, or revise another story that seems like it might actually belong with the interconnected short stories. Meanwhile, I'm questioning my usefulness, or really questioning whether I'm justified in pursuing any of these goals. And wondering why I'm wasting time questioning, since I persist, questioning or not.

I've been reading a few recent articles about how writers need to be huge self-promoters these days if they hope to be read at all, and watching my compatriot Lena Roy ( work to promote her first book, and wondering about the purpose of it all. Then there's a long list of literary magazines to which I am supposed to be sending stories. And I am, but the responses are slow, like glass is really a liquid slow -- and so far, negative. I have this nice vision for myself, involving publishing a book and a few stories, or a book or two, and becoming a writing instructor at some nice writing program. I really enjoy teaching. I think I'd like that. Teaching and writing.

Flitting from there to here. I'm thinking about Dave Eggers' article on The Writing Life. As I dither, I like to think about Dave Eggers staring at the sheet tacked over the window in his writing shed. I like to think I share something with him. It's heartening to know that someone legitimate like him also butterflies around sometimes. Of course, Dave Eggers has earned his writing shed. Literally and figuratively. I have not. It's a viciously risky thing to put out there, the desire to write, or more specifically, the desire for recognition for writing. Just about everyone out there could spit on that goal. So impractical. Totally unremunerative. A chapbook of potential failure. Still, I do it.

Last night, leaving my novel beginnings workshop at the New York State Writers' Institute, one of my classmates shook my hand - very strong, dry, earnest, and overlong shake - and told me she really appreciated my insights, and that my comments were always very helpful to her. This made me feel good, if an understatement can express the pleasure of believing a few heartfelt words. I had something useful to offer the writing world. I felt good all the way home.