Get Back To Me In Ten Years

September 6, 2010 — 5 Comments

I just realized that it was ten years ago this month that I started this journey to be a writer.

Sure, before I began, I packed some provisions and planned an itinerary (as much as such a journey can be planned) and did some moderate training, but ten years ago, the journey began when I started the M.A. program at the University of Cincinnati.

I noticed a few significant changes right away:

1. I stopped writing about how much I wanted to be a writer, and I started writing. Between taking classes, teaching Comp., and being a mom, there was no time to muse about what I wanted to do; I just had to do it, dammit.

2. I started calling myself a fiction writer. I wouldn’t have let myself get away with such an audacious claim (for I felt I hadn’t “earned” the title), but as I met new people in the program, they wanted to know: Are you a scholar, a poet, or a fiction writer? I was a fiction writer!

3. I was alive. I knew I was doing what I wanted to be doing, what I should be doing, what I needed to do.

But I also realized that things don’t change overnight. Even though I started writing stories instead of writing about wanting to write stories, I had a lot to learn about writing stories. And even though I called myself a fiction writer (if only to distinguish myself from the poets and scholars), it was a long time before I became a published fiction writer. Now it’s been ten years, and my first book is finally going to be published.

The new semester has started, and at school and at Art Beat (last weekend), I’ve been talking to people who want to be writers. They want to know what to do, where to go. I think they think I can help them. But all I can suggest is that they start by making a change, even a small one. Sign up for a class, join a group, go to a conference, apply to grad school, attend a local reading, finish that manuscript. Lather, rinse, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And get back to me in ten years.

[Aside: In one of my first stories that I submitted for workshop, the title and the last line were the same phrase. One of my classmates let me know it was a lame device, and I am and was grateful. So, in an effort not to end this post with the same line as the title, I’m adding this aside/disclaimer. Which is itself probably a lame device…]

5 responses to Get Back To Me In Ten Years

  1. 

    One happy spring quarter, I thought I heard a famous poet (who led the annual Elliston Poetry Workshop at UC) say something like, “Don’t put the word ‘love’ in a poem,” and “it makes me gag when I read all those “-ness” words…

    Next poem from me was titled “Love in a Poem.” And the next poem from me was titled “To Happiness.”

    Take that, famous poet.

  2. 

    Further confirmation of your awesomeness.

    (ooh, a “-ness” word! Next poem: To Awesomeness?)

  3. 

    Yep – that’s what they say: 10 years or 10,000 words. I’ve heard both. Good on you for having your book published, by the way. I’ve been writing for about three years and it is precisely what I want to do. Now, since it takes at least 10 years to be an overnight success, I’m looking for that side job to keep me going on the side while I write.
    Good work. Down the road I’d like to read your book. I’m currently in the middle of a David Mitchell novel and the man is phenomenal.
    Loved your story. It’s important to recognize that it was time to write and not “want to write.”

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Why didn’t anyone tell me Julie & Julia was about WRITING? « ph.d. in creative writing - July 31, 2011

    […] a previous post, I reflected on my ten-year journey from starting graduate school to publishing my book. I remember […]

  2. Cathy Day’s Last Lecture: “Am I a writer?” « ph.d. in creative writing - June 22, 2012

    […] The apprenticeship period is key. I have addressed my own ten-year apprenticeship in a previous post: Get Back to Me in Ten Years […]

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