As soon as my head hit the pillow last night, my mind’s eye burst alive with their faces: My teachers. Those glorious mentors who have guided, taught, encouraged, and hugged me through the past two years of the MFA.
Most of us sniffled and cried our way through the 43 minute graduation ceremony. Sitting in a straight row on the vast stage, our chairs directly faced the audience. Customary to Pacific, the faculty sat in the very front row, guarded by greygowns on either side. Sitting in front of them in this final gesture was perhaps one of the most intimate experiences a student and teacher who have connected can have, and yet the event was so public. That, more than anything, was the most heartbreaking part.
I am ready to move on. This past residency was the most comfortable of the five I particpated in. I was relaxed, had little to no anxiety (imagine that!) and slept relatively well. There was no social drama. There were no sleepless nights. There was no heartbreak no heartache and nothing seemed to be impending. Which of course means it is in fact time to move on. Leave when it gets good, they say, or – as soon as you’re comfortable in a place, the place can no longer serve you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to step into this new phase of my writing life and I’d like to say that I have it all worked out. The truth is, I think I’m going to have to go through a bit of trial and error before I can nail down a new schedule. The other fact is, I’ve been gone from work for two and a half weeks and I’ll be returning to an overworked staff and probably a few extra shifts on top of my regular load to make up for my absence.
But I can say this much:
First, I want to unplug the phone when I write. And I will not check email, even as a break, during my designated writing time. Designated writing time is DIFFERENT than freelance writing and freelance editing time, where email is a necessary tool for the paid job. I’m not sure how I will separate thes two facets of my writing life jsut yet, but I know it needs to happen.
Second, I want to shift my primary writing hours to AFTER work, AFTER karate, and INTO the wee hours of the night and early morning. This suits me for the cooler temperatures of summer nights and for the insular quality of writing at night. With darkness all around me, the world can suddenly become me, my fingers, the keyboard, and the desk. I like the feeling because it invites a sort of intensity that feeds a deeper view into the page (for me, anyway).
Third, I do not want to write all morning before work, go to work, and work into the night. In other words, there are three things: writing, play, and work. The play is important because it involves engaging with the world–which is as much the duty of the writer as is sitting at the desk. Playing is something I’ve made little time for the past two years and it’s something I forget to allow for in my life. I’m slowly getting better at playing more, though. I think what this means is that everyday will have work and writing and sleeping. And weekends can have play. (I don’t know yet where the freelance work will fit into this, since I’ll need to sleep later in the mornings from staying up so late.)
Fourth, I know I need to be sending out my work to literary journals and researching publication markets. This has nothing to do with my magazine work and everything to do with my thesis. When I started the residency, I thought I’d return home all charged up to keep rolling with the thesis by touching it up more, filling in holes and cutting the weaker points. Now I know that I need to send work out while I’m motivated. A vast majority of nonfiction books get a contract before they are finished. They are sold on a few sample chapters and solid pitch, perhaps a publishing record or a recommendation.
Fifth, I know I need to start meditating again. This is the thing I have the most resistance to (right down to the way sitting cross-legged hurts my knees). But I must. I’ll change my posture so it doesn’t hurt. And I’ll start with just twenty minutes a day. I no longer have homework as an excuse. It’s time to get back on the cushion, as meditation deeply has everything to do with living deeply, which has everything to do with writing deeply.