Monday, May 17, 2010

This year has been a sore year for me as a writer. Last August, I left the AROHO conference for women writers, full of excitement and wonder. I walked away from that experience believing that I had taken my writing skill as far as I could without dedicated focus and wide-spread support. So much of the conference was populated by academics or by people who had completed MFA programs. Many talked about finding their true voices during the course of study.

Leaving the retreat, I spent another week, hiking the mountains of Colorado and the red rock country of Utah. Clipping along in my red Rav4 with a cooler full of ice water and an iPod full of the Kronos Quartet, I looked back at my life in Washington from this distance and knew that it was time for me to find a new life.

The question often arises when someone initiates great change: Are you walking to something or away from something? It's a loaded question, because the perceptions are false, the reasoning flawed. Walking away implies that one is a runner, an escape artist, and a failure...someone who is unable to make good with what is there. Someone who doesn't know how to make lemonade. While walking to something sounds more positive. If you're walking to something, you're the mistress of your own life, the creator of your destiny. You are following your bliss. Just like that glass half full/half empty thing. Sometimes having a half empty glass is beneficial. Sometimes it is the part waiting to be filled that holds all the hope and anticipation. Sometimes it is the part already drunk that is significant. Sometimes walking away takes more courage than the idiots who come up with these things could ever fathom.

Driving along the pinnacle contoured Utah highways, I knew that did not want to go back to my job in high tech. While the field does not compensate me as well as it does my male peers, I can't think of anything else to do that will pay as much. I decided to make a huge leap. I would go back to school and spend two to three years in an MFA program. I would sell my house, go someplace new and focus on writing and nothing but writing for the duration of the program. People at the retreat had encouraged me. Do it, they said. There are programs that are fully funded. Go for one of those. Do a teaching assistanceship, they said. It's easy. There are so many programs.

From August to January, I researched programs, filled out a blizzard of paperwork, found people to serve as references, studied for and took the friggin GRE exam, gathered together writing samples and research papers, wrote statements of purpose, paid fees and sent it all off. I applied to eleven programs. The University of Nevada never responded. The rest sent me form letters, saying that the decision had been so difficult but no.

It's May now, and I'm discouraged. Maybe it's time to put away my toys, I'm thinking. My last chance street car has derailed. Maybe I've been making a fool of myself. Give it up. Stop putting it out there. No one wants to read my writing. No one is out there saying that I have promise. I've pulled way back.

This year, I will mostly read and, if I write, I will do so for myself. I want to find out what will come out of me without all those other people's voices in my head. Don't be trite. I don't find your characters/plot/theme/pov/tone believable. Maybe you should add more detail, make it more understated, make it longer, shorter, put it in the future, take it to a new locale. Or the worst, uh, thank you for sharing. What would I write if I were my only reader? What do I want to write? Do I have any stories in me? At this point, I don't know if I'll even write anything.

Wish I felt more positive. Rough year.