Looking Ahead

I set a goal to write something like ten first draft lyrical essays in ten days. And here I am, already having skipped three days and the New Year nearly upon us.

I have not experienced such resistance since my second semester with the MFA, whereupon I grew weary of my own perspective and hadn’t yet gained the tools to carve out a new one for myself. Here, now, I believe it is the weight of what I know is to come—the thesis semester, the hardest I’ve worked on writing in my entire life, the highest standards I’ve ever encountered, the challenge to hand in 120 pages of my best work.

But I do believe there is value in these periods, where slow and steady work is done deep, deep below the surface. Things do bubble up from down in the muck, and it is indeed possible to find the balance between honoring this process and tending to our own wounds with too much attention.

I can feel a wave of hope and self-coaching arising in me. Reminders from past writing teachers flash across my mind’s eye. I’ve been decorating my desk with inspirational and supportive quotes. I’ve been reading lyrical essays and jotting down ideas for prompts I can come back to. I’ve been reading and critiquing the work of my peers. I edited for a regional lit mag and I copyedited a 200 page book. I’ve been trying to take care of my body and let my mind rest.

Here are some maxims holding me up these days: Write with words that evoke precise abandon. Keep checking the peripheral vision for that thing we’re afraid to write about. Writing is about economy and elegance. Write about change that invokes larger consequences, not simply the ordinary stuff of life—find the element of singularity within universality. Art makes the familiar unfamiliar, the unfamiliar familiar. Look at writing through the lens of possibility and into the hand of humility.

Most of those are from my advisor last semester, Claire Davis. (See the Pacific University website for short video-clip interviews with her. She is absolutely inspiring. Better yet. Read her latest collection, Labors of the Heart, published by Picador.)

So what remains in the final 24 hours of 2007? A dream so big I can’t keep it inside of me. A desire so grand the only thing to do is commune with others about it.

What do I think of when I think about 2008? I can only think of it through June—when my friends and I will graduate. After that, my new year begins.

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