Saturday, December 4, 2010

BEFORE THE FALL


What no [spouse] of a writer can ever understand
is that a writer is working when [she's]
staring out of the window. —Burton Rascoe

It's a sort of a cliff I'm standing at just now. I'm a few feet from the edge, safe and swiveling my head this way and that as I take in the scenery. I lean forward just enough to see past the ledge and know that the drop is a steep one.

I have crafted an identity. It has taken years. I've done it carefully, and I'm pleased with the picture. I am a married, yoga-loving, vegetarian Mormon drug rep. Encapsulated in that short description is material enough to infer that I'm a liberal conservative and rather conflicted. The inner conflict gives me fodder enough for a good bout of introspection from time to time without leaving me a confused mess trying to figure out who the hell I am. I know who I am. I know what I like. I know what I don't. I know what I want.

And what I want has brought me to the cliff.

When I jump off the cliff, I'm surrendering to a shift in identity. Do I want that part of The Dream? Oh, not really. For I'm comfortable here.

But eight and a half years ago when I graduated from college, armed with a diploma and designs on a life of laptops and cardigans, I aimed to keep on with schooling. I wanted Sarah Lawrence quite a lot. But apparently I wanted Señior Romo more. It's taken eight years to get my little train back on track and headed for a graduate degree. My innate insecurities mean that without a master's degree I've felt like an incomplete poser. (I don't feel that way about you. Just me.)

A year ago I decided that now's the time. I'm not learning a new job or settling into a new city or birthing a baby, so I can finally toss school in the mix. I informed my taller half that I'd be applying for school, and I got to work begging for reference letters. Seven schools. Four said yes. Dad says the other three were just morons anyhow.

I accepted Lesley University's offer of admission and deferred six months so that I could get a handle on a new drug to sell and apply for money. And I let the concept of impending higher education float in the back of my mind as something to prepare for. But only float, for I'm an indefatigable procrastinator. School starts on January 7th. Residency manuscripts are due on Monday. I'm staring at 40 typed pages of my words and my words alone wondering what I was thinking.

I'm standing near the edge of a precipice, a leap off of which will alter how I understand myself, brashly adding something about writing to the adjectives that make up my self description (maybe even replacing the noun!)—that string of words I'm so comfortable with.

I've been after the title of writer for over ten years, and during the last 5 or so I've realized two things: a) being a "writer" doesn't mean that you're any good—any fool can (and does) [falsely] call themselves a writer, and b) for me the word means something more—a visceral something—and applying the title to this little person is an act of brazen arrogance.

But it's what I believe I've been wanting from this jump off the cliff—the jump from knowing exactly who I am to becoming exactly who I've wanted to be.

The concept of school is suddenly real. I've got a month to read hundreds of pages of prep work and—the part that's really scary—I'm submitting 10,000 of my words for professor and peer workshop review. I'm giving them what I've written with the license—no, the mandate—to read it, judge it, and tell me what they think.

I've decided that that is what will make me a real writer: surviving the criticism necessary to make me better. As my comrades in this will to write, it is the job of these professors and peers to give helpful and harsh feedback.

And It's my job to weather it, landing at the bottom of the cliff a new iteration of this project called Me.

8 comments:

Ashley Thalman said...

Being criticized is so good, so hard and so good. School works because you pay for it and are given it by people you respect and admire.

I am so proud of you, and inspired by your willingness to jump. We can all jump can't we? Each of us have hidden (at times lost) aspirations that we want desperately to throw ourselves at. Thank you for jumping, throwing and growing.

Jessica said...

I am so excited for these next two years. Such a spectacular opportunity to learn and grown and become better at your craft. All the while, learning more about yourself.

[Morgan] said...

surviving criticism.
something i've actually gotten worse at, the older i get.
you do things and you do them well.
the writing, the surviving, becoming a real writer. you are going to rock it.

Julie said...

Awesome.

My25Cents said...

Inhale.

Exhale.

Allez! Courage! Surmontez! Bon courage!

rabidrunner said...

You will be victorious!

Interestingly enough, this post helped me learn something about me. I'm not afraid of criticism as long as it is spoken directly to me. It's the unspoken criticism that scares or bugs me. Especially when you ask an opinion and someone tells you it's all flowers and roses when they believe the exact opposite. We all know that happens.

And speaking of criticism, I'd be happy to read anything you write, any time of day, and I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but. (Which may or may not persuade you to allow me to read yer stuff.)

Megan and Keli'i said...

You were born to write. This will only make you that much better.

I'm proud of you. Maybe someday I'll follow suit. But I doubt it. I think, nursing is for me.

~j. said...

Wow. WOW. Best wishes. You're brilliant.