…and to failure and to mystery and to allure and to…. The point is OPEN.
Waffling on the Threshold
Two summers ago I was ready to quit writing entirely. Oh I’d still be a writer (I don’t think you can change a life perspective quite that easily) but I would cease to make it a major part of my life. A focus of dreams. Then–ta-dah!–I won the award from Writer’s Digest (last post) and suddenly I felt that luscious sensation that maybe my writing matters after all. Maybe I’m good enough that someday someone will read my work and it will bring them a gift.
But I got so tired of pursuing this dream on my own. My critique group was wonderful, yet it wasn’t enough to push me off the plateau I’d settled on. I needed a mentor. I needed structure and deadlines and other people’s expectations to kick me off the ledge.
I yearn for people to tell me what to do. Decisions are excruciating for me. Open the door…close the door…go out…come in…. People make jokes about cats, but I’m just as bad. To fight the waffling instinct, I tend to say “yes!” when others offer a solution for me.
Christine Myers, a writing friend of mine, nagged and nagged about going back to school for an MFA. “This is what you have to do,” she said.
Back to School
So I researched schools and decided to apply to the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts (NILA), a low-residency accredited MFA program that is run entirely by writers and not affiliated with any university. It grew out of the Whidbey Island Writers Association and graduated its first candidates in 2007. Location influenced me enormously (only 90-minutes from my home by car), but I also like that they offer four different genres and encourage cross-training: childrens/young adult, adult fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
Even the application taught me a lot. For the first time I had to write down all my publications—every article in print and on line. I impressed myself! I also had to list every workshop, every conference, every class I’d taken on my path as a writer. Wow! It became clear to me that this writing thing really did hold importance in my life. I wasn’t just kidding myself. Finally, I had to write an essay explaining why this school was important for me. I ended with this:
Beyond the knowledge, skill base, and relationships Whidbey will bring me, looms the most gut-wrenching draw of attending this MFA program. The tuition and time required for an MFA is a huge investment in my career. By saying “yes” to this opportunity, I am really saying that I believe my writing is worth the sacrifices this will mean to me, my family and the other people I serve.
I hope you will accept my application. I hope I have to face up to this scary and oh-so-alluring challenge of believing in myself and my work.
Well, they accepted me into the program and I’ve been working like crazy since my last post—over a year ago! It’s a wonderfully challenging program. Whenever I find myself pulling out my hair with stress over a deadline, I remind myself that this is EXACTLY what I wanted for myself. What I’m paying the big bucks for, in fact.
All this to explain my word for the year 2013: “OPEN.” It combines my fascination with vulnerability and a need to open myself up to success.