Two birds with one post: a response to this week’s Daily Post photo challenge: Boundaries, and to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (hosted this time byTB Markinson, Tamara Narayan,Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar). I’m an insecure writer trying to understand the boundaries, outside and inside, between me and my writing goals.
Over the summer I finished the first draft of my novel. I felt pretty happy about that, of course. I knew that going into the academic year, with all its demands on my time, I would not be able to keep up the same level of engagement with the novel, but I wasn’t concerned. A hot first draft needs to cool before you begin editing in any case. I’ll get back to it. Really.
In the meantime, I keep doing things around the periphery of novel writing. I keep posting on this blog, though lately only once a week. (Thank you, Daily Post Photo Challenge – it’s given me a target to aim at every week without fail.) I keep reading my favorite blogs on writing, authors, blogging, and publishing. I attend meetings and events at Rochester Speculative Literature Association (R-SPEC) – a local group of folks who write science fiction and fantasy. That’s where today’s image comes from. Last night’s R-SPEC meeting was at our local Barnes & Noble store, and I saw this lovely railing on the second floor. It’s pretty, but even more it represented to me what my insecurity was.
There’s a barrier between me and the published book that is my goal, just like the beautiful railing between my camera and the books filling all those shelves. Actually, several barriers, some outside, and some inside me.
- Outside barriers: Demands on my time. Work. Musical groups I belong to. Family commitments. The lineup of fall TV shows I’m interested in, piling up on the DVR until I get time to watch them. R-SPEC meetings. Weekly game sessions with friends. More work. And it matters that my work involves a lot of writing (handouts, lectures, reports), which tends to drain some of the need to get words down on paper that might otherwise be driving me back to the book. All of this is true. All of it matters. But really, I’m not complaining. I have work, I have a family, I have a TV and a DVR, I have communities of people to share interests with. How blessed can someone be? Still, the hours are draining away. I long for the empty weeks of summer when I could lock myself up with my computer and focus on writing for most of the day.
- Inside barriers: The hardest barriers, as always, are in my own mind. No matter how busy I may be, if something is truly a priority I can find a few minutes here and there to work it in. The excuse of letting the draft cool has slipped away in to the months since it was finished. I think part of me is afraid to haul it out and start reading from the beginning. What if it’s awful? What if it’s boring? What if I start asking myself what I was thinking? Then I think–what if I’d rather keep it in the drawer and call myself a writer working on a draft, than read the thing and realize I’m just a pretender? As long as it’s locked away, I don’t have to take that risk.
I made a decision last night at the R-SPEC meeting (another reason why I selected the image I did, taken in part to memorialize this decision). Next month’s meeting, on November 3, is a reading meeting. Members are invited to read a few pages from what they’re working on and get feedback from the group. The idea terrifies me. I have no fear of speaking before a group (I am a teacher, after all), but this is different. I’m not explaining about the parts of the brain or the differences between working memory and long-term memory. Those are other people’s ideas; I’m just the messenger. This time I’ll be sharing something that’s entirely my own, and it makes me start to hyperventilate. But here’s my promise, to me and to you, my faithful readers:
On November 3 I will read an excerpt from my draft to others at the R-SPEC meeting.
Making this commitment means I’ll have to do several other things as well. In preparation, I’ll have to get the draft out and start reading it (one barrier, down). I’ll want to polish my opening (unless it’s already flawless – hahahaha! As if!), which gets me over another barrier into the revision mode. And it will be the very first step toward sharing my work with others, something I have to get used to or quit. It won’t do anything to the outside barriers, but those aren’t the important ones after all. This battle is with my inside barriers, and I’m determined to overcome them.
Wish me luck!
With thanks to the folks at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!