Monday, August 24, 2009

Letting go

Funny how in one week, for me at least, my moods and feelings about my writing can fluctuate so much. I guess this is the life of a tortured artist…In my case, however, the torturing is all self induced. The thing is, unlike my teenage years, I am pretty happy in my life. I have an awesome family–my husband, kids, family, my work, and friends. I guess I struggle only in my head because there’s no other struggle really to be had! You know what? I think struggle is overrated and unnecessary. I bet can write better without all the self-induced b.s.

I attempted to write a story that dug deeply into a very painful part/time period in my life. My parents divorce.

And the verdict is…

I failed.


I wrote about 22 pages of…blips, fits and starts, with maybe one actual scene…I ended this week feeling like complete and utter crap, too. By Thursday I was ready, yet again, to call it quits with school (my MFA program) and just hang up my proverbial pen–call it a day with the whole writing thing. I had trouble sleeping all week–yes, the heat is really bad and yes, I have a 13 month old…but I also have air conditioning and a baby who is a good sleeper. Suffice it to say, I am my own problem.

Speaking of, so what was my problem with writing this story?

I don’t know, exactly, but here’s what I learned:

You can’t write the story closest to your heart if every time you sit down to work on it, you want to throw your lap top across Starbucks and then stomp on it while screaming obscenities.

This is what I wrote in my journal on Friday:

The words don’t come. There’s not flow. I am blocked. I can’t write the story that’s in my head. It’s not fun. Maybe I am not cut out for this. I feel like I can’t quit. Not pride. Logistically. Quitting means losing a crap load of money, means I won’t get to study with all the fabulous, amazing courageous people at Solstice. But I am failing, and I don’t feel angry. I feel sad. I am in my own way, no one else. Frankly, this IS too hard and perhaps my years of resistance to getting my MFA was warranted, was instinctively right on. I don’t think I am going to make it through because I don’t have anything inside of me to write anymore. Nothing. All the ideas that come up are met with my own resistance, my own voice shaking a finger and saying, “That’s the same crap you’ve been writing. It sucks. Don’t bother. Can’t you do something better? Different? Deeper?”

I dream up stories about girls and the boys they lust/love/like. I want to write those. But when I go to do it, I feel like it’s meaningless and not beautiful, high literary quality. Vapid, Reality Show.

But the advice I keep getting is, write what you want to write. So, I guess this story about the two sisters who are in different ways deeply affected by their father and their parents impending split, which is torturous to write, I guess I have to stop. I don’t want to waste my time sitting here, day after day like I have been in the last week and a half, trying to write a story that just feels crappy inside, each time I sit down. It reminds me of when I dated this boy for a while in high school, and I absolutely didn’t like him romantically, but I kept telling myself I should. He was a “good” guy. We wound up breaking up. I’m not good at faking it.

So I give up this story that I don’t want to write.

Writing was an escape and love for decades for me, and now it’s torture. It feels like I was placed in a Math class, like Calculus, and I never took the prerequisites. The standard I’m holding myself to right now is impossible. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for the 24k run…

This morning, I had a nice, long, figure-out-my-struggle talk with my best friend (and husband). We took a long walk along the water where we live, our baby sleeping in the stroller and our older daughter with my mother. We just walked and talked–without interruption, without losing our train of discussion, and in so doing, I found the space and peace inside my head that just whispered, “Let go” and so…I did. I am letting go of the struggle with this story. In the case of this artist, struggle is not creating beauty. Therefore, I let go of struggle. But I am not giving up on writing. Never.

***Another version of this blog is featured on


Margaret said...


As you know I dropped out of college for a year. It wasn't one of my better decisions. While in graduate school I came close to giving up again. My in-laws wouldn't let me quit. They were right.

I don't know how important an MFA is or isn't but aren't you half way through? Might as well stick it out and take whatever you can out of it.

I found it interesting your struggle with writing about your folks divorce. Just the kind of thing I would write about. Each writer thought is different as to what interests them and motivates them. Write what you enjoy writing.

Joanne Carnevale said...

Good for you. Move on to a story that doesn't hurt so much. Let that divorce story marinate, or percolate, or whatever term we used last spring in Master Class. If it's meant to be written you'll come back to it later with new feelings and perceptions after distracting yourself with other work. If ideas for the divorce story pop into your head while you are doing/writing other things, just jot them in your journal and let them simmer on the back burner (another way of saying marinate/percolate). If, over time, you find you have several of that sort of entry, then maybe you'll feel less angst about proceeding with the story. Just a thought.