I haven’t been on the blog since June. What’s the appropriate amount of flogging for penance? 39 lashes?
I’ve made myself scarce for a few reasons; let’s go through them, shall we?
1. I have made no progress as a writer. I’ve opened up my rough drafts and skimmed back through them, revisiting so many worlds created, characters grown, adventures lived: Copper and her ocean, Amani and her dragons, Phoebe and her hellhounds, Molly and her Dust Bowl, Clara Jean and her spaceship.
Though I love my leading ladies… my writing sucks. The plot takes a long time to reach its hook. The character growth is sporadic and unbelievable. There are holes and typos. The men the ladies (and the readers) should adore–Shiloh, Tristan, Roger, Angus, Griff–don’t move and breathe the way “Team ____” characters inspire the fangirl masses.
I don’t know how to kindle the energy to revise. I’ll focus on Copper for a few weeks before realizing that nothing I’ve fixed is any better than what existed before, so then I’ll tuck it away and re-open Clara Jean’s story. But then I’ll only make it through two chapters before getting called back to Copper, which is a lost cause, which sends me on to Phoebe, whose episodic story still feels more like a bad video game than a novel, and on and on and on.
What’s the point?
Of course I know the answer. “Writing is its own reward.” These characters’ lives will never, ever be unless I am the one to tell them.
I’m just so easily depressed and drawn away from the messy chaos of revision… which draws me to my next point.
2. Somehow I got scheduled to teach THREE DIFFERENT GRADES. That’s right, I plan and teach and grade for seniors, and juniors, AND sophomore honors students. The “glass-half-full” people say it’s a compliment that my bosses think I’m capable of handling such a workload, while the “glass-half-empty” people say it’s because I don’t have tenure and can’t complain about anything without repercussions.
I cried almost daily for a while, because I already felt like I was treading water with my nose one inch above the surface–the junior burden on one shoulder, the senior burden on the other–and then got sophomore honors plopped onto my head, pushing me all the way below. Then the crying lessened, gradually, to once a week, and now I’ve made it over a month without shedding a work-related tear.
I can do this. I know I can. The end of the first semester is within sight, just two weeks away. The next semester can’t be any worse than what I survived in September. But still… the energy drain of planning AND teaching AND grading for three completely different groups… well, it has not been healthy for me as a writer or wife or friend (or healthy-ish person).
Oh, plus I have to do buttloads of pointless paperwork and meetings to clear my credential, and I advise a student group that requires volunteering hours all over the place, and all of my students have needy parents who insist on scheduling identical, useless meetings all the time (“Why is my student failing?” “See all these 0’s? They don’t do any work in class or at home or read anything ever.” “Oh, that makes sense.”).
Finally, 3: I needed to recapture my love of reading. How can I be a good writer if I’m not a voracious reader? Last year’s school duties kept me from reading much–NOW I understand how people can start to read in bed and then fall asleep immediately–so I spent an enormous chunk of my summer “catching up” on a lot of lost reading. I devoured every recommendation in my path, things like “The Pillars of the Earth,” “Throne of Glass,” “Fangirl,” “Ready Player One,” “The Silkworm,” “Outlander,” “Sweet Tooth,” “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”, “The Alchemist.” It was magnificent.
The good: remembering the beauty of prose, the joy of risks and justice and swooning, and the pleasure of being drawn into magical worlds–fantasy or not–helps inspire me to “pick up the pen” again… sort of. If I ever get the energy to split my hours between teaching and writing again.
The bad: EVERYONE IS BETTER THAN ME. haha… dramatic but true. The “Throne of Glass” trilogy (so far–I think there are supposed to be 6 books when all is done?) was spectacularly done. The creativity, world-building, plot twists, and adventure made me like it almost better than “Graceling,” my last whoa-hey-I’m-in-love-with-this-book find. At the same time, however, it makes me hesitate to even try anymore, because I don’t think I’ll ever be that talented or produce something that brilliant even after thousands upon thousands of additional words written.
The knife in my heart twisted further this week when I finished reading the Grisha trilogy, “Shadow and Bone.” Leigh Bardugo was in my head, you guys. Her magic system and many of the character traits/plot twists are parallel to those in my Copper and Amani books. So, cool, I’m creative like other writers! Aaaand… now I can’t use any of that creativity because it will look like plagiarism.
So there’s a much-needed update on me. I’m alive. I’m swamped. I don’t really count as a writer right now. I’m a half-assed, very tired teacher instead.
I miss the blog world.
I’ll try to stop by more often.
And if someone can find a way to convince me to/help me to revise Copper, I am all for hearing your suggestions.