Today is the one year anniversary of my final day in the corporate world before beginning this writing experiment process thingy I’m doing now. I didn’t want to write about it originally, but I couldn’t help it in the end. This is a…weird milestone, and I am honestly unsure how I feel about it.
I look back on the last twelve months and mostly feel disoriented. It doesn’t feel like it could possibly be that long, and yet I know it is. Depending on when you catch me, I’m both amazed at how much I’ve done and written in that time and dismayed that I have not accomplished as much as I’d hoped. I waver between believing I’m absolutely doing the right thing, what I am meant to do, and feeling like I’m adrift, floating in a vast expanse with no clear destination in sight.
The ambiguities built into this experience continue to vex me most. I’ve talked about these kinds of things before, a lot. I continue to struggle with fear and focus even as I feel like I’m getting better at habit-building and discipline. I’m certain my writing is getting stronger, but in some ways I have less confidence in it. I attribute this to a greater awareness of the enormous challenge of “making it” as a writer, though I maintain that I did not go into this naïvely.
The next twelve months will, of necessity, be very different from these first twelve. I need to figure out what I really want out of this time — something I’ve struggled to articulate to myself thus far. I still don’t know precisely what that looks, but here’s how I’ve framed it for myself:
For the first few months after I left my job, what I did was like someone getting into exercise after being away from it for a long time. Sort of the equivalent of heading out to jog casually a few times a week. The problem is I thought I was really training, working at it the way I had when I was a competitive athlete. I was doing a couch potato workout but thought I was training like an Olympian.
So in November, I ran a marathon, and I probably ran it too hard, leaving me laid up for a while. Since then, I’ve been recuperating and trying to figure out a more appropriate regimen while running a few 5ks here and there instead of full marathons.
Translating this from the tortured sports metaphor above, I spent the first few months writing with little focus or structure but it felt like I was working really hard. Then, I blasted through a novel draft in under three months, and I’ve been in a sort of fog since. It’s left me somewhat disillusioned with both the content of my writing and how I go about doing it, but I think more than anything it’s given me a more realistic impression of what it takes for me to write a novel. Which is to say it may look nothing at all like I thought, and it may look nothing at all the way it does for other writers. I was forced back to the drawing board in a way, but I’ve learned much in the process.
This experience was always going to have its rough patches. I knew it was going to be hard, and I also knew I was probably still underestimating how hard it would be. I was right! Good for me!
The fact is I don’t have the same exuberant optimism I did a year ago, but despite the challenges and setbacks I still believe I’m heading in the right direction. I’m wearier and grizzled, but I’m ready to approach the next phase with a ruthless pragmatism. The last year was a time of new beginnings, of starting things and hoping they lead somewhere. And that was fine for a time.
But now? Now it’s time to start finishing things.