Still in the Race

July 2, 2015

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.

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