I haven’t abandoned this project. Not at all.
I’ve been very busy these last two weeks. On Saturday I will be giving a presentation at the Pacific Northwest Writing Centers Association Conference in Ellensburg, and on Tuesday I am presenting a poster at the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Symposium. I’m not saying this to make myself sound important. Rather, I’m saying it because, as much as I feel committed to my work, and as much as I’m enjoying preparing for these events, I am feeling over-burdened by work. And I’m feeling terribly distant from my own writing.
And that brings up a big question: when I refer to my own work, what do I mean? What is my work? Managing a writing center is my job, but is it my work? It is certainly my chosen profession; there are few other jobs that I would like to have right now. As I become more and more engaged with my job, and as I participate in the larger conversations that surround writing and pedagogy, I feel more entrenched in my profession. More connected, and more content. I enjoy what I do a great deal, and I have become even more tied to my job within the past year.
But my job interfers with my work. My writing is my work. If it is the thing that is most meaningful to me, the thing I most want to do, then why do I put it on the back burner so easily? Obviously profession has to take precedence when a paycheck is involved. But I could choose to be less engaged with my job. I could choose to do less, to not bring work home with me, to not fret over conferences and symposiums. But this stuff helps me become even more connected to my day-to-day.
I’m really wrestling with this. I’m struggling to find a way to make more space for my writing, as I allow every other area of my life to be as full as it is right now.
Right now I miss Mattie and Joe.
I had a dream last night that really affected me. I was in grad school (I dream a lot these days about grad school), and our workshop instructor told me, and the rest of the class, that my characters are perfectly drawn. He appointed me ‘character consultant’ and I had to meet with each person in our workshop (there were at least 50) and provide detailed feedback on their characters, and suggestions for creating more defined characters. It was a very burdensome job. I couldn’t fully connect with my classmates. I resented having to meet with them. I wanted to get back to my own characters.
I talked to my instructor about this the next day. I told him that my characters were sitting right next to me as I spoke to him, and he nodded to them, said he could see them very clearly. I told him that I shouldn’t be talking to him about character. I should be asking him about plot. I told him how terrible I am with plot development.
And here’s what he told me: ‘don’t think of the plot. Let your characters tell the story. If you know them well and if you trust them completely, they will tell you their story.’
I woke up wanting to write, wanting to grab my laptop and a cup of coffee and throw myself into it. But instead, I checked my work email. I had today off and rather than, at the very least, jotting down some ideas about Unplanted, or writing out that dream, I chose to work.
This choice bothers me, and it has me wondering about all kinds of things. Priorities, mostly. I’m not sure what else to say about that, except that I have not abandoned this project, and that by Tuesday evening I will have a lightened workload and I am looking forward to dedicating the night to writing, to letting Mattie and Joe tell me their story.