So I am nearing the end of my fifth month of a daily writing practice. I’ve missed three days, I believe–two when I was sick and one when I had insomnia and needed to catch up on sleep later. It occurs to me now that maybe I should have taken advantage of the insomnia to get up and write, but I’ve found that the morning is the best time for me to write. My mind is quieter. The distractions and stress of life are at bay. I don’t find my mind rocketing from pillar to post, as my mom would say.
I’ve done all this without a writing partner or writing group. The latter, especially, would have been my approach in the past. I did all of the writing seminars you imagine come with undergraduate and graduate degrees in writing. Off the top of my head, I would say that I took two fiction seminars as an undergrad and two as a grad student. I took one undergraduate poetry seminar, and one undergraduate and one graduate seminar in creative nonfiction, though we didn’t call it that. I would have to dig up transcripts to find out what we called it.
Since school I have taken the writing workshop at Ferry Beach. This year I will teach it for the second time. I also helped start a writing group at church, and am thinking of helping to start one again. I also took the occasional workshop here and there, but I can only picture a couple, at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. One was good. One was painful.
So I have been left, since November 1, to my own devices. I have the draft of the novel, which I have been reworking a bit. I have finished nine stories and submitted four of them to a total of eight journals. I think four of the short stories are very good and one might be very bad. That’s ok. Maybe I trash the one that is bad or try to overhaul. Maybe I take the three that I think are middling and trash those or rework them. Maybe I wait for rejections or acceptances and keep rotating the better stories out to journals.
Maybe I get my novel in circulation, find an agent, learn where I stand with it.
After working happily at the solo writing, I have found myself–perhaps over the last month–feeling that I need feedback. I took advantage of the good nature of two friends to read my novel. I owe them both a nice meal or a few good drinks or both. I have reconnected with some friends from my graduate school days, but have not crossed that bridge and asked them if they would like to share things. I kind of doubt they would like to.
I remember, at the end of graduate school, that my friend Don Lee, the finest author I know personally, told me he was done with workshops, done with needing feedback. I don’t remember his exact words, but he made it clear that he knew what he wanted to write and how to write it. I don’t know if he stuck to that, but I am guessing he did. He has had an extraordinary career, with a collection of short stories, three novels, and another novel coming out in a year.
Thinking back, it’s striking that he was so clear about this when he was so young. We were both in our mid-twenties. Here I am in my mid-50s and I am less sure than he was. Does that mean every successful author is like Don and every struggling author is like me? I doubt it is so binary, but I am willing to bet more successful authors are like Don than they are like me.
From those eight submissions, I received my first rejection yesterday. I am not surprised, but I am still disappointed. Of course I am. Who wouldn’t be? I want editors out there to acknowledge the accomplishment of my work, but I also know that my work is good, some is perhaps very good, and some perhaps very bad. I can distinguish between those two poles. Maybe that is all I need for now.
(The picture of my dog, Petey, has nothing to do with writing, but he is a good dog. In fact he is a very good dog.)