Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reckonings and Resolutions

As 2008 draws to a close and winter break gets into full swing, I’m weighing up where I’m at right now, what I’ve done this past semester and year, and where I’d like to go from here. This is one of the things that I like the most about being involved in an MFA program: every semester there is an end, the perfect opportunity to really look at yourself as a writer, figure out where you are, where you’d like to be, and set goals to get yourself from here to there.

This past semester was an off and on productive one for me. I got a new draft done of my thesis, and one that I think is finally fairly close to where I want this novel to end up. I got some new stories written, some old ones revised, and I spent some serious time on improving myself as an academic writer, something that may not be important to all writers out there but if you want to be a teacher it’s not a bad idea to work towards getting papers published as well as whatever sort of creative writing you do.

But there are a lot of things that I’m looking back and shaking my head at, too. Recently, I started tracking how many hours a day I write with the hopes that I would discover that I write two to three hours a day on average. It turns out that, on average, I write a little less than two hours a day. Which is okay, I guess, surely a lot more than a lot of would-be-writers write, but it’s not as much as I thought I was writing. It’s useful for me to be aware of this, I realize, even though it’s a little disappointing.

I don’t know that this is a number I can reasonably change too dramatically, between being a wife and a cat-mom and a student and a teacher and let’s be honest, it’s important, as a writer, to read a lot, too . . . But I think it’s useful to be aware of how much time you actually do spend writing, and if the number is surprisingly low, it’s something worth working on. I’m going to set a sort of resolution for myself that for the year 2009 I’ll spend an average of at least two hours a day writing. I may or may not be able to do it, but I think that just by having that as a goal and by keeping track of it, I’ll be more likely to push myself that extra little bit.

The other thing I’ve realized I need to push myself more on is seeking out feedback from fellow writers. This semester with workshop and as I worked with the head of my thesis committee on my novel, I really realized the value of having people outside of yourself look at your work and give you honest feedback. This has been on my mind a lot lately because I’ll be graduating next semester and, if all goes as planned, I’ll probably be moving on to a graduate program in literature instead of creative writing and, who knows, I may never take another workshop class again.

I think it’s really important to be involved, one way or another, in a community of writers who you can learn from and grow with and who, if nothing else, can look at your work from unbiased eyes. I notice a lot of my fellow MFAs exchange work and give each other feedback outside of workshop, and it’s something I need to be more brave about taking part in, myself. I tend to be shy about it. I feel like I’m burdening other people if I ask them to read something and give me feedback, but I think it’s important and, especially once I graduate next semester, it’ll be something I’ll simply have to force myself to do since I’ll no longer have a workshop and thesis committee to share my work with.

And with that, I’ll sign off for the year 2008. Check on January first, when the first issue of MFA/MFYou will be up.

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