becoming a student

In the winter of 2013, my character, Becca, came to me with her story of loss and confusion. I had too many big ideas, not well hashed out characters, a bad setting, and a plot that didn’t exactly fit together. None of it mattered. I felt the urge to write in a way I hadn’t since my teenage years. I couldn’t stop writing her story, thinking about her, trying to make it work. I finished that novel for better or worse in 2014. I was proud of the accomplishment. As the months went on, I lost some of my pride in the actual work, though. I’ve not done anything with that story. I’ve often thought of retelling it. I believe I could do it better and capture what I truly wanted now. In some ways, I feel that story was my first draft of a new chapter of writing in my life. I had to get that terrible story out of my system to continue on this path.

Taking 2020 off from fiction writing has set me back, as I’ve been talking about. I didn’t intentionally stop writing fiction, but I’ve not found the rhythm again. I am allowing myself the space to continue to figure it out, along with my life as a whole. I’ve begun to consume books on writing, creative living, finding your voice. I’m intentionally taking a step back to “student” for the time being. I need to retrain my brain to remember what it is to write fiction. You use different muscles to create a character, setting, plot, then when you write a blog post. I’m searching other authors to remind me what those muscles are.

Right now, I’m reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and loving every snippet of it. She’s reminded me what it is to find these characters that run around my mind and pin them down. How to coax them out, get them to settle, to tell me things about their life. She’s reminding me that sitting, looking out the window, dreaming is all part of the work. It is the work. How precious little time I have to do such things. It’s not that I can’t write fiction, it’s not that there are no stories in me, it’s that the space they demand for creation doesn’t exist in my world at present.

I had this quote pinned on my Becca Pinterest board. I believe I had it printed and taped in my writing space while I wrote that novel. It resonated with me personally then; it resonates still, or perhaps again. There are a lot of unknowns in this season of my life. There are many unknowns for the world as a whole as we slowly come out of Covid. I swing back and forth from anxiety and worrying about health and safety to being ready for “normal” life to begin again, like, yesterday. Anxiety doesn’t leave a lot of room for dreaming. It has a way of squeezing dreams dry. I am homesick for a normal that I’ve never experienced. Precovid I separated from my X, during Covid our divorce finalized. I began working, teaching my children virtually, stopping work, tirelessly fighting for my son’s mental health, and trying to keep our life afloat for the last year. I have no reference for normal anymore.

This is why I’m choosing to give myself time to consume as much as I can on writing again. I’m reading all the books on writing I can find. I’m thinking about what a creative life looks like. I’m wondering where I can sneak in moments of dreaming and talking with my characters. I’m allowing myself the notion that instead of more time, I just need better used time.