If you’ve poked around here at all, you might have noticed that there’s not much on my About page. In part, this is because it’s hard to know what to say about me that hasn’t already been said. Works in an office. Right handed. Not very tall. Can’t dance worth a damn.
And after all that, really, what’s left?
Well, I guess there’s the writing thing. That’s a semi-recent development, in the sense that it only dates back about five years, and during most of those five years, it’s been more of a nebulous concept than an actual activity. There’s been some on, but until last year, it’s mostly been off.
Then late last summer I decided (for maybe the 12th time) to start taking myself seriously as a writer. Even if nobody else ever does1. I started writing every day, giving attention to a couple of stories that have been rattling around in my brain, and looking for opportunities2 to do more structured, directed work.
The very first thing I did was to return to 750Words, a site that I have been using (again, off and on) for several years. It’s not perfect, but can be really helpful in terms of starting and keeping up a daily writing practice. Right now I am thisclose to 300 days of writing in a row there, and that alone feels really good.
In October, I participated in the Writers Digest Platform Challenge. This challenge offered numerous valuable lessons in considering all the possibilities and expanding my comfort zone. The Platform Challenge also introduced me to a great group of writers from all over the US and the world, a group that has become an important source of inspiration and humor in my writing life.
By the middle of October I had decided to participate in November’s National Novel Writing Month for the very first time. This gave me the impetus to start working with an idea that had been bouncing around in my head for several years, based on an old news item about a woman who disappeared days before her parole ended. After writhing through innumerable variations, this ultimately turned into a book about a prison that doesn’t look like a prison. (In addition to being my 2015 NaNoWriMo project, it was also my 2016 Camp NaNo project. I hope to have it done by the end of this year.)
Taking the sage advice of numerous writers who tell you to always have two projects going, I also (in a leisurely way) did the Writers Digest NovPAD (poetry) challenge during November. This was a lifesaver on days when I couldn’t face my story, and it turned out that I actually enjoyed writing a lot of it. My results were mixed – some of the poems were, surprisingly, not too bad. (A few of them are posted at this site, in fact.) Some were not so good. Some turned out to be like little jokes I was telling myself. However they turned out, the challenge helped keep me writing.
At the end of November, I printed out and packed up everything I had done, and put it away for a while. Then I began expanding a story I started in 2011, about a woman who may be leaving an unhappy marriage at a time when doing so is pretty complicated. (A piece of this can be found here.) And I joined up with a great group of local writers whose feedback and encouragement have meant the world to me.
This year I re-launched my blog (thank you for visiting!) and got back on Twitter. Wrote some short pieces just for the fun of it, and developed the habit of actually writing down new ideas. (It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a good idea can enter and leave your head.) And in April I did Camp NaNo and the Blogging from A to Z challenge.
This year I started calling myself a writer, and for the first time in a long time I started feeling like I might actually finish a project.
Who knows? I might even get around to writing that About page.
What’s your journey?
Let me be clear here – I am incredibly lucky, because somebody else actually does. A few people, including my husband, my child, my writing fairy godmother, and a few friends whose enthusiasm has actually been a really pleasant surprise. There are, of course, a few friends whose lack of enthusiasm has been a bit disappointing, but it’s certainly possible that I have let them down in small or subtle ways, so I’m cool. The good is so good, and sometimes so unexpected, that it definitely outweighs the bad.
Among Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I am an obliger, which means that someone else’s project, deadline, expectations will always carry more weight with me than my own. This is probably why I like challenges – they allow me to externalize my projects and priorities, and that’s when things start getting done.
(Image: Women prospectors on their way to Klondyke, from the Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views via the New York Public Library Digital Collections.)