Archive for the ‘second book’ Category

A banquet of consequences

Hi!  Is anyone still reading this thing?  I knew I hadn’t posted in a while, but I didn’t realize “a while” = more than four months.  The Snork Maiden went to college, I visited her in October, she came home for Thanksgiving, and she’ll be back again in three weeks when her semester is over. I have missed her a lot, but it’s gone fast nonetheless.

My book came out, and I’ve been doing readings and events, so that’s made the time go fast, too.  I’m writing, but a lot of the limited time that I’m able to devote to that during the school year has gone to bringing-out-a-book activity. I’m glad, though, to have events to do to support the book.  I also have a one-week residency lined up toward the end of next summer, and I’ve applied to one other colony.

The school year is bouncing along as usual.  It feels maybe a little bumpier than usual for me because of several absences for readings and events and visiting the Snork Maiden.  And for two funerals, one for a friend and one for a relative. And, honestly, I think the Outside World is really wearing on everybody, kids and adults alike.

I’m coming back here to post, of course, because it’s Sunday of the long holiday weekend and, as usual, I’ve had some bouts of Sunday gloom. We only have two weeks left before a big paper is due, and I’m recognizing, with this project, that I have a lot of anxieties about this kind of writing (persuasive, research-based) that I need to get a better handle on so that I can help the students engage with and even enjoy it.  Some of them are really into it, but others are floundering.  Mostly, my feelings are about how very imperfect most of the results are likely to be. If I were advising someone else, I would reframe those imperfect results as part of an important process–so perhaps I can advise myself and calm the heck down.  Anyway, it’s worth a try.

I have various administrative responsibilities pressing on me, and worries about Stubb’s parents, and feelings about having said goodbye to the Snork Maiden again (although she’s really doing well, and it’s hard to be too sad about her not being here when it’s making her happy to be there).

But!  I have several hours of Sunday afternoon, and a fun plan for this evening–two excellent conditions for getting myself into a good position for the week ahead.  I have been to yoga class, so I’m feeling good in my body.  And I’ve decided that I need to take especially good care of myself these next two weeks, so that I can stay healthy and keep giving people–my family, my students, my colleagues, my friends–the attention and care they have the right to expect from me.

All that (the real post this time)

Back in October, I wrote about needing to put a little more Lenny Dykstra into my attitude about writing and publication.

I’ve always cared deeply about doing good work, and I’ve done a lot of it, but I’ve always taken my failures to heart, and I’ve always questioned my successes, whether I really earned them.  (Even to say “I’ve done good work” without a qualifier takes a bitten lip.)

And the more I think about it, the more I think that on one hand, there are ways this attitude has served me.  I sought to do good work before I sought publication; I listened very carefully to others; I aimed for quiet excellence and only put myself forward diffidently.  I had some great opportunities–but there’s no denying I missed out on others.  For example, in college I wrote and took creative writing classes, but didn’t get involved with any of the several literary magazines I could have.  I was involved with a lot of things in college–I wrote for the newspaper, worked in the theater, was the most politically active I’ve ever been–but it was more than I could do to submit to a literary magazine or show up to offer to work on one.  To do so would have been to openly show desire for the thing I wanted, and that is something I have always found it very hard to do!

Some part of this is gendered, of course.  Nice girls don’t let their desires show, seek recognition, or act as if they are more deserving than other people.  As a woman and a feminist, I am not willing to reject completely (even if I could) such modes of interaction as collaboration, care for others, communality.  I value these traits in both genders and try to foster them in my students.  In teaching girls and boys, in particular, I have a lot of opportunities to experience how different people balance respect and care for others’ needs with respect and care for their own.  As a teacher, I’m often urging students (whether female or male, fifteen or forty) to value their own work highly, speak up about their opinions, be proud of what they’ve done.

In most of my life, I’m actually pretty satisfied with my ability to assert my needs and opinions–to speak up.  The thing I’m not satisfied with is hard to articulate, but it’s to do with operating out of a place of anxiety–of being concerned about falling short, about not being good enough, and particularly about being exposed as inadequate.  It’s rooted, I think, in something other than lack of self-esteem.  I have a lot of self-esteem–I know I’m smart, highly capable, funny, attractive.  It’s more about functioning too much in a mode of humility and not enough in a mode of pride.

I was definitely taught to be privately proud and publicly humble.  And a lot of the time, this is a great way to be!  The thing is that a lot of my dissatisfactions with my life and work can be traced to operating too much out of humility, anxiety, underconfidence.  I think this is the thing that I’m getting stuck on.

Mind you, I know my life is wonderful.  If I couldn’t change a single thing, I’d still be thrilled to be who I am, doing what I do.  I still want, though, to be the best version of myself I can be–the one who enjoys life the most and  puts as much good work into the world as possible.

I also want my work, my writing, to make a place for itself in the world, and I’d do for it what I might not be able to do just for myself, so that it can be here when I’m gone.

And finally, I think I’m ready to test whether my worldview–the disaster mentality, the sense of impending panic, the difficulty being in the moment without anticipating the next problem or concern, the Sunday-night feeling of impending doom–might possibly not be the way I have to live.

So!  My resolution is to act like I know I’m fabulous, damnit.

  • I deserve time to write and the conditions I need to get my work done.  Among other things, I deserve to spend two weeks at a writers’ colony.
  • I deserve to have my work published.  In fact, magazines and presses should be falling over themselves to get my work.
  • I’m an effective teacher.  I contribute a lot to both my institutions.  I deserve everything I earn and then some.  I can operate from a position of confidence and competence.
  • I deserve to do things that I know matter, like seeing people I care about, without feeling guilty about taking time away from the jobs that I am, after all, performing with great competence.
  • I deserve to spend time having fun.
  • I deserve to spend money and time on things that make life easier, like a cleaning service (which we’ve had for about six months and I wish we’d gotten years ago) or make me feel good (like massages–I need one right now–or going out for a run).
  • I can care for the people I love, and I don’t have to take on other people’s problems.
  • I can choose to eat pretty much exactly what I want to–food I want, that nourishes and pleases me.

I’m feeling a powerful urge to put in a little disclaimer here, to defuse all this self-centeredness and self-aggrandizement, just in case you think I’m really that asshole, so I think I’ll just stop.  For now, I am that asshole/Lenny Dykstra/my bête noire (whose confidence, by the way, is one of the things I both envy and dislike about him).

I rock!  See you soon.


I forgot to add THANK YOU SO MUCH to the commenters for your congratulations about the book. 

I’m looking forward to going to AWP and when people say, “So how’s your work going?” being able to say, “I’ve just finished a new book.”

Just printed out a new copy, with some corrections and changes.  Single-sided.  Very satisfying.