Monday, September 26, 2011

Times of Transition

Four years ago and a few months, I moved across the country to a city I knew nothing about and where I knew not a soul. I did it all without much thought. A job opportunity presented itself and I leapt. I closed on a house in twenty-eight days and began what was the most difficult year of my life (to date). That year (the dark one) taught me more about myself than any other year of my life, and the lessons I learned have fueled what have become three of the best years of my life.

Before the tremendous job opportunity came along, I felt cramped in my old life, a life where everything seemed defined already—me most of all. I was my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sister, my friends’ friend, my employers’ employee. I was fixed, like a dead butterfly on a biologist’s cork board. No one made me this way, it was simply that nothing had challenged the definitions by which I saw myself. The move fixed all that. All of sudden, I was flying (and occasionally crashing). I was alive, even in occasional misery.

Over the year and the ones that followed, I became myself, not anyone else’s definition of me. I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately as I move into a new time of transition, the point where change is fueled by an internal wanderlust.

I’m not moving again, nor do I find that I really want to (after years of wishing I could be closer to family and friends again). My life is here. My wonderful, modest heaven of a house is here. My seasons. My new friends. I am home.

But that doesn’t mean that I am fixed in place. I’m not. My mind lately, since I’ve been on my writing hiatus, is crafting and planning, wandering through other dreams and goals from years ago, looking at all the ways my life can flourish for a new season of change. There are things I want. Goals that haven’t been touched. Writing is still chief among them, but I’m thinking of writing things I never would have dreamed I would touch. Darker things... more fixed in reality. I love the fantastical worlds that I’ve been privileged to create, but new voices are wandering into my thoughts, voices yearning to find their way onto paper.

We mustn’t ever stop pushing ourselves to be more, to grow more, to discover more. Stagnation is the enemy of all creative people, but my goals don’t just include writing. My mind is restless to learn new things, to delve into fields of study, to push to know more about this world. And in other ways, I feel my life opening to greater changes than I’ve ever known.

When I began my writing hiatus, I thought it was due to bitterness, but I was wrong. I just needed some rest after working myself into disillusionment. And now, without stories filling my head and every off-work minute of my life, I’m discovering blossoms inside myself, growing in the shadow of the fictional worlds to which I’ve been devoting my life. Without writing, I can give the buds some sunlight, allow them to bask and grow, and together, all my goals and I can make a plan for the new adventures waiting just around the corner.

Quote for the Day from Helen Keller

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Upside of a Meltdown

For three years, I have been living the writing life, filled with hopes and dreams, energy and imagination, and queries and the fun-filled (like, not so much) pursuit of an agent. Before that, I wrote a lot, but not with focus and determination in equal measure. I’ve mentioned before that I write every day and that writing is the best part of my days. I work a full-time job, and that time in the evening when I settle in to live characters’ lives and discover the soul inside fiction is like a drug. It’s not a chore, but it is work. For three years, I’ve been filled with faith, so much that rejections became just part of the process. The agents’ notes, full of compliments and comments about how I was just so close, but not quite what they were looking for, became barely speed bumps, just fuel to keep writing new stories and putting them out into the world to see what came back.

For three years, I believed.

And in one day, I didn’t.

I started taking days off from writing while on vacation in August and enjoyed not writing every day, seeing other things, doing other things, and sleeping more. The world wasn’t quite as bubbly, but it wasn’t stark either. Turns out, when you have more time on your hands, you do more. I would still dabble in my current story, but days would pass between visits. And then last week, I reached into my faith well, the place where all my belief about being a successful, published author one day lived. The well was empty. Instead of feeling horrible about the whole thing, I felt relief, not having noticed that, for years, I’d been carrying the untenable weight of believing.

Within myself, I hadn’t acknowledged the letdowns, the close-but-no cigars, that had become common along my journey. The fulls that agents never responded to (and yes, I requested status updates, several times over many, many months). Watching and being ecstatic over friends’ successes, only to wonder when I might have a turn. Believing is truly a heavy burden, and freed of that weight, I got mad. Furious with everything: myself, the universe, the publishing industry, Borders for closing, the people who don’t read, and my puppy for chewing on my curtains. It was sort of a free-range rage.

A friend asked how it felt inside when I spewed my venom. My answer: delicious. It truly felt wonderful to give up the Pollyanna and get going with the Captain Pissy Pants. It still does a little, but as with all life lessons, there is really another side to all of this. An upside.

Yes, I’m on a writing hiatus, but I’m living more. Without my shot of pure happiness found in my writing, I’m looking around at my life and I can see other dreams and hobbies. I’m going out with friends more. Walking dogs more. Going to a shooting range to do my part to deplete the Zombie hordes (so, I discovered there are Zombie targets at the gun range and can’t get enough... I even shot a Zombie warthog-looking thing). I’m thinking about my career and other goals that I hope to accomplish in my life. I’ve thought about going back to school. I’ve made some new friends and reconnected with others. I can breathe a little more... and clean my house.

I can see a real future because I’m not so addicted to living in fiction.

What this means for my writing I don’t know. I know I love it... like I love nothing else. I know writing brings me a kind of connectedness I rarely feel in my life. So, I would guess I will get back to it, maybe even write in some different genres to cleanse my palate and vary up the marketing experience. I’m not sure and I don’t really enjoy how that feels, but I’m glad I’ve found that the upside to my writing meltdown is a healthier, more balanced life.

Quote for the Day from Charles F. Kettering

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”