You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2010.

Running today was not easy—feeling sluggish, a bit sad, but my body went into automatic at some point and I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was running, I was just moving above the ground. I like it when that happens; it’s like flying. I’ve used that analogy before with things—with riding a bike, with writing. Yes, sometimes writing feels that way. Like I’m soaring above the ground, zipping around, a kind of high. Although, writing is not always like that, writing is often just plodding away. Just like running is, those first seven to ten minutes—sometimes longer—before my body goes into automatic. I don’t like that, really, the word “automatic.” It makes me think of machines and robots when it’s more like a natural state, a zen state of writing, a zen state of running, where I’m in the moment, doing the thing and not thinking about doing it.

I was in that state today, floating over the sandy ditch bank, watching geese fly overhead in arrows, calling out in their funny way—I felt like I was soaring with them. But I’ve since landed. I’m feeling a little depressed, still, after getting a rejection “letter” (email, to be precise) from this small press I’d submitted my book to. Unhappy, but there’s a strange sense of freedom in their rejecting me. I think I would have been sorry had I gone with them. They are not respected; I think they put out a bit of pulpy stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with pulp–it has its place). I suppose I should be glad that my work does not fit in with their “needs” (whatever those are.) I do think my novel is a bit too literary for them, even though it may not be literary enough by MFA program standards. It is still too complex for the regular, strict-genre fare that this particular press puts out.

If that’s the way I feel , why did I submit to them and not do a thing (as far as writing goes) for three months while I waited for their reply? I was sure I would be picked up, to be honest. I thought that well of my novel, it was actually too good for them, they’d be happy to pick it up. What is wrong with this picture? First of all, I was definitely aiming too low. Secondly, I was afraid to go to a better press. There are very few presses that deal in my niche market and I’m afraid to be rejected by those that are more respected. This is difficult, writing about this. I’m afraid but I have to forge ahead, to walk though this fear and see what happens. I have not actually tried to publish this book. Sure, I submitted to a contest (one winner out of however many. I didn’t win—big surprise) and this “lowered expectations” press. That’s hardly a try and I really thought that they were likely to take my book because—look at the crap they sell—mine is much better. Whew, that kind of smarts! Maybe mine isn’t better. That’s the thought that keeps seeping into my gloominess, maybe I’m really not good enough—even for Bottom of the Barrel Books. Aaaaugh! The writer’s plight: always fighting with the magically morphing ego (now too big; now too small). I’m either the best or I’m the worst, never somewhere in-between.

All right then. Stop whimpering, dust yourself off. I need to look for a new publisher, rewrite my synopsis, get someone to edit it, try again. And again. And again. Who do I think I am, really, that I shouldn’t have to go through the many rejections that all writers, most writers, have to go through? This is hard to write about and I don’t know if I want this to be in the blog. Reflection on rejection, not very inspiring. I’m feeling about seven years old today. Feeling sorry for myself, wanting to give up, wanting to eat a bunch of junk. The run was good, but its effects are not as lasting as I’d hoped. I came home, escaped into a mystery novel, not wanting to deal with grading the stack of student essays, not wanting to deal with revamping my synopsis, working on that outline for another stupid press.

What would Julia do? (I’m speaking of the one and only Julia Cameron, of course.) In her book, the Artist’s Way she talks about letting yourself feel the pain of rejection, she says, “give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds.” I will allow myself to grieve a little bit; it really was a death of sorts, death of a dream (at least for the time being), even though my expectations may have been unrealistic. I know that in a day or two I will have healed and will move on in a new direction. Sometimes rejection is the best thing for me. It motivates me to look at something in a different way. It offers me perspective. I was limiting myself; I had not been taking risks, not really wanting to put in the effort, step out on a limb. I may even feel grateful for this rejection at some point in the future. Maybe. (September 12, 2010)

Advertisements

60s cheerleaders

It was hard to get going this morning. I can blame it on too much coffee, not enough sleep, loading up on that super sweet granola when I usually don’t eat before I run. Whatever the reason, I did not feel like running this morning. I dressed, got momentarily excited about trying out my new sports bra, did some stretching, and started out slowly. It was a bit cold for 8:00 am and I found myself sticking to the sunny spots rather than looking for the shade. I was actually crossing the street to avoid shade. I did a little more than I thought I would, which usually happens, even though my legs were kind of tight and mushy (tight and mushy???) throughout the whole run.

I felt like I never quite warmed up today. I made a point of keeping my arms low and slack. I am constantly surprised at how much effort it takes to stay relaxed! My arms want to come up above my waist even though it drains my energy to do so.  A running friend told me that it’s best to keep them down, and relaxed, unless I’m running up a hill. It does relax my shoulder and neck muscles when I run with my hands near my thighs, I’ve found, but they creep back up on their own volition. I think I’m working some new muscles just by trying to keep my arms down. I’ve been observing other runners’ form and I’m surprised that many hold their hands up near their chest, swing their shoulders, or let their wrists flop around. I’m trying to be aware of having the correct form and whether it’s helping or hindering me.

The most interesting thing I saw this morning was a woman walking four dogs and a baby carriage. Everyone was well-behaved. The dogs were just walking along, not pulling or barking, the baby was sleeping; they looked like they had practiced this for some time and had it down. It could have been a chaotic event. When I passed her, I said “Wow!” and she nodded with a tired smile. Good for her. I’m sure there’s some lesson there for me but at the moment I’m not sure what it is.

I told someone about writing this blog on running and she didn’t seem too impressed. Maybe it was because I’ve become excited about so many other projects lately that only lasted a day or two. That’s what she brought up—what about the work you were doing that came from the art gallery? Oh, that. Well, I’ve lost interest. Or maybe I’m still interested in a way, but I’m not really doing it anymore. What it was, was writing to a subject, the way poets do. I remember taking a poetry class and noticing that the real poets wrote from the perspective of a “speaker” and wrote to someone or something. I had never tried this before until I was in an art gallery with a poet pal and did some writing exercises (which I had miserably agreed to do with her) writing about paintings. My friend was actually writing to the subjects in the paintings—never occurred to me to do this but I loved it! So, I’ve been doing that for a month or so, little snippets, “poemettes” where I speak to the tomato plant, to the bird on a wire, to myself from my body’s point of view. It’s been interesting and it’s working some kind of artistic muscle that I’ve never used before. I don’t think I’m done with that, and I don’t know where it will lead, in fact, I think I may be using it now as I write this to an audience, to the reader of my blog—you, the person interested in running and writing and escaping reality as much as possible. You may not be my subject but I’ve never been so aware of an audience before. I suspect that I’ll see more come out of this in the future.

Today, when I was running, I kept thinking about what I would write when I got home. I would write some deep and ponderous things about the woman with the dogs and the baby,  the man watering his tomatoes, the yellow leaves that have cropped up on trees here and there, the golden light of fall that I love so much. I had such a hard time being in the moment, busy “writing” as I ran. Not that those things can’t go together. I have experienced that often as I walk (while working on my dissertation, as well as my last novel). Walking brought clarity, inspiration, even story to my mind. I’m experiencing some of that now with running. I think, however, that this morning I was trying to force it. Thinking ahead to my blog that I would be starting and how this is the way I would become famous, just like the woman in that film about Julia Child. I have questions now about the ethics of profiting from spirituality (inspiration, meditation—whatever you want to call it). Is this a spiritual exercise for me (writing, running, sharing my personal experience) or am I trying to find my niche? Make a buck? Get famous? All of those things, I suppose, and I’m probably not the first writer to be in a quandary over it. Maybe I should just stop thinking about the future and whether I will be on Oprah or on Ellen to talk about my book that came from this blog and just write for today. This book/blog is different from my fiction (as well as my poorly disguised memoir written as fictitious regional/coming of age novel based on my childhood) in that I knew the endings to those, or at least, it was up to me to fabricate an ending. I thought about where the story was going, plotted the course. This book (I can’t help it)—I have no idea. It is truly a work-in-progress and I love that. It is a one day at a time project and I will have to wait and see where it goes. Just like you do (if you’re still there). I’m thinking, write for seven more months, until 9/9/2011 (my one year anniversary of running). I can try that. If I don’t think it’s a good place to stop, I’ll keep going—just trust the process.

Reality. Boy, this is a hard one. I don’t know if I want to talk about it right now. Mostly, I’m trying to deal with the pain in my knees. I don’t know if biking exacerbated it, it surely feels that way. It’s disappointing because I want to bike to work. It beats driving to the university and trying to park; it’s stressful and it’s expensive. Plus, it ends up taking a lot of time. Reality is: I need to stop writing and grade papers. I need to work on a lesson plan for tomorrow. I need to, I need to….

This (writing) is not reality. This is something else (playing, fooling around, procrastinating comes to mind). Society, my mother, that voice that tells me I’m not being practical–that’s what I’m hearing. I’m wasting time by writing. Reality, for me lately, has been all about finding a better job: a real job—with benefits. A career. The kind of job that a woman my age should have. That a person with my advanced degree should have. It’s not that I don’t like teaching. I’ve been an adjunct for a few years, but there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It’s part-time (even though I teach four classes) and it’s temporary (I have to renew a contract each semester) and it doesn’t offer benefits. So, reality is biting me in the arse. I’ve been looking for other work, but the reality of it is, we are in an economic crisis, jobs are scarce, and I don’t have a very good employment background because I wasted all those years living a “unconventional” lifestyle. (Dropping out is easy; it’s dropping “in” that’s hard.)

There you have it: reality bites.

Anyhow, I can’t escape it, so I am attempting to face it. This is going to be the hardest part to write about: facing 50 with limited options. This I know many of you can relate to. How do we deal with this? I’m writing about it. I know I need to work on my job hunting skills, my interviewing skills (I want to slit my wrists just thinking about this). Not so inspiring as the running bit, is it? Well, that’s reality for you. But (to put a positive spin on it and try to yank my mood back from the depths) if I can start running at 48 and finish three 5Ks in five months time and run for 40 minutes straight (which I did do two or three times) then maybe something I don’t see happening will occur.

I don’t know what’s around the bend. Maybe, just maybe, I can do something I never thought I could do in the employment arena. I’ve heard that I’m good at organizing, at seeing the big picture, at paying attention to detail, I’m creative, I’m a good communicator…hey! I could be a writer! All right, I’ll behave. That was a little sarcastic, I admit. Well, I’m working at that job, waiting to get paid, and trying to be open-minded about the job market. What can I do that I’ve never thought of before? (This one takes everything I’ve got.) I’d rather run uphill for thirty minutes straight, on trash day, during rush hour.  This is turning out to be an exercise in motivation. I’m learning to motivate myself, in running, and I suppose I can apply it to this enterprise as well. Snapping teeth are great motivators!

I’ve been writing about running in my log, short little notations and then sometimes longer ones in my journal. I’m hoping that writing more on the topic, perhaps with this blog in mind, will get me out of this funk. This stuck place in my writing career. I finished a book last year and I’ve been in a lot of fear about publishing it. Suddenly, I had to put it out there, find a market for it, face reality about the limited audience I’d written for, find a way to market myself. I haven’t been able to write since.

Sure, I’ve done a few things. Started on a play, then changed my mind and started rewriting that as a screen play, then wrote a few poems because I was in love, then fiddled around with a short story I started years ago and have to admit sucks. Maybe it doesn’t suck, but it’s limited. I finally gave in and met with a grad school crony to talk about it (I’d resisted  “workshop” in any form after being bludgeoned over my dissertation) and she told me what I suspected. There was no plot. No story, really. Okay. What now? No ideas and almost a year has passed. I started a sequel to my urban magic realism (fancy way to say speculative, or fantasy) novel but that just fell dead in about three pages. I’m down to writing goofy little snippets in a notebook from a different kind of “speaker,” playing with narration, I suppose, and audience, and trying like mad not to second guess myself, and I don’t know if that’s successful or not. I’m afraid to look at any of them because they really might suck. But maybe, I keep thinking, the act of writing, the discipline of sitting down and putting pen to page, will keep my art alive, will keep the creative juices flowing, and some day one of these little “snippets” will turn into something. It’s possible. That happened with the book I just finished. It’s only been thirteen years in the making. But hey, a lot happened in those 13 years. I also wrote three plays, directed, performed, went to grad school, taught, wrote that other novel (the one that broke my heart) and here I am. Trusting the process.

I learned through The Artist’s Way to “show up at the page.”  So, that’s what I’m doing. Showing up at the page. A leap of faith, really, writing has been that for many years. It hasn’t been practical, it hasn’t made sense at times to keep going, but it is my passion. It is what I love, consistently. It is what makes me feel alive.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 138 other followers