Friday, March 14, 2014

On Dealing With Dread (as a writer)

On Publishing 

When I talk with writers that have books out, they nearly always say the same thing: "Having a book out doesn't change anything about your life."

When pressed, one admitted that the only thing having a book out did for them was give them an opportunity to compete (and receive) a full-time (tenure tracked) teaching job, respect in the literary field, money, a condo, other writing offers, invites to readings, the stability to start a family (if desired), and a chance to travel the country to promote their book.

So the only thing it changed for them was everything.

The Truth

Sometimes I get so impatient trying to get my book published that I can't fall asleep at night. 
Sometimes I imagine my book out there and having to answer for it. 
Sometimes I feel like I'll never have my book published, or anything published, ever again. 
And then I feel dread, with all these thoughts, this overpowering endless dread. 

AWP, Seattle 

According to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, there were over 13,000 writers and readers at their 2014 Seattle Conference. One of those writers (and readers) was me. I sat at the Ghost Ocean Magazine/Tree Light Books table (I'm a fiction editor for Ghost Ocean, check us out, we're awesome). You might have talked with me there. You were probably a writer too. We were 2 of 13,000, in fractions: 2/13,000. We were .015384615% of the writers that were there. Maybe we had a connection. Maybe we'll both make it. Maybe there's room for all 13,000 of us to get our books out there. Or maybe I'll see you next year, and the year after that, and we'll both be hoping, still dreaming.

This Book

Is wonderful. I highly recommend it. It's also tremendously frustrating. Because there are just so many of us out there, writers, people that want to be writers, people teaching others to be writers so they can teach others to be writers so they can teach others to be, etc. Do writers still have anything to say except how much they want to be writers?

I believe in the MFA. I believe it was good for me and for others. But there's something in me that believes the whole system is ready to collapse. And what then?

I Believe In 

Margaret Atwood.
my unpublished book.
my charisma.
this blog.
my family.
most Latin American writers.
most of my friends and most of their projects.
the capacity to achieve one's goals, in my case the publication of my book, and upon achieving that goal, more opportunities arising, leading to further success, stability, and comfort, in short: Happiness.

That's it.

See this blue? 

It's the sky! Can you believe that? How can anything be so blue? How come I can't describe it as anything but blue? If words fail you, why even bother? When you have pictures widely available, why even bother?


writing is fun and reading is stimulating. Because just the other day, I gave a lesson to students on descriptions because not a single one of them described a single character in their personal narratives. After the lesson, I gave them pictures of three iconic characters and had my students write three-four sentences describing them (some did not know who these characters were, but I was prepared, I told them to write how they perceived these characters from just their appearances). One of these characters was:

Homer Simpson.

My students had fun describing him (not so much with Minnie Mouse, who many of my students did not recognize [surprisingly?]). One of my students described Homer as a failure, a lazy worker who chokes his son. Someone described him as a tragic person, who is stupid and selfish, but has a big heart. Almost everyone described him in a different way but no one described him as a cartoon character. My lesson in class: Everyone has different perceptions and honing those perceptions on paper is interesting and worthwhile. The lesson to myself: the sky is devastatingly blue; the sky is majestically blue; the sky, this sky, is so brilliantly and blindingly blue. 

Did You Know? 

That I write this after having taught a pretty good class, a day after writing some of my best work (for a new book that I'm very happy with), all during a very good, satisfying year (so far). I'm running a reading series, and I've met so many cool writers that way, and I don't say that enough and you wouldn't even know by reading this blog how grateful I am for that.

Did you know that I had so much fun at AWP? That I met so many great people and felt, more often than not, intense kinship instead of the much maligned dread? Did you know that I really believe that I'll get a book out, eventually?

Did you know that I really, truly believe that you will find a way too?

In Conclusion 

That dread is still there. But everything else is too.

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