I have thoroughly neglected this blog. But this is my birthday week, which is when I take stock of things and hold myself accountable, when I set goals publicly so that there’s at least some shame in failure. Also, there has been exciting, my-world-altering news of late.
After four times applying, I finally got into Clarion UCSD, class of 2011. Scalzi, Bear, Johnson, Hoffman, Durham and Kessel. I could not be happier to get in with such a lineup. I first applied in…I think 2005? Which means I would have been 23. I got waitlisted, but no one dropped that year. Then I proceeded to fail for the next six years. I thought my writing was improving, but each time I applied and didn’t even make the waitlist, my wrathful brain would taunt, “Stupid girl, you’re getting worse, not better. Why do you bother writing at all?”
This is when I complete the redemptive arc and mention something about persistence. Except that that would be dishonest. I am not persistent in the least. I write fiction rarely, and when I do it comes with difficulty. Or, I write constantly, but usually nonfiction or academic argument. I miss speculative fiction, and whenever I write it, I remember that I love it more than anything.
Getting into Clarion has made me think very, very hard about what it is I want. It’s expensive, very much so, and only worth doing with head up and eyes open. Here’s the dilemma:
I’m not NOT going to Clarion; that’s not even on the table. But what Clarion does is inspire. Everyone I know who’s gone to Clarion generally rides high, for a month to years later, on the euphoria of it. I know Clarion is going to leap my writing forward years, in only six weeks. If you give yourself to the experience, that’s just what it DOES, judging by all anecdotal evidence.
And then I’m going to waste all that inspiration, because it is exam year in my doctoral program. I return to Chicago and I need to read three hundred-some-odd books, which will be predominantly theory and nonfiction. I could do a magical realism/fabulism/mythpunk list with Luis, and some of my experimental fiction list will have speculative ties, but I can’t do what I want, which is write a YA novel and revise my short fiction into a manuscript (fantasy, natch) and submit individual stories to build my pub record. Nevermind the languishing novel. What I want, some days, is to postpone for a year. Refuse to go into more debt. Spend a year post Clarion working and writing instead of reading for exams.
This line of thinking is idiocy, because 1) people who leave rarely come back. 2) I am super jazzed about exams, because I am a sick monkey like that. 3) there’s a pay raise involved if I pass. 4) I ought take them as close to coursework as possible, before all the theory I’ve already read falls right out of my head. 5) I DO want the PhD. It’s just that life is too short, and even packing it all in everything slips through my fingers.
I wish I could do everything all at once, and it’s unpossible. I’ve never minded being overcommitted, but this summer will be liek whoa–possible guest lecturing on playwriting at my old institution, the usual copyediting, reading for exams, driving cross country, Clarion. I can and will do the best I can at all of this, while hating myself for everything I’m not doing.
I also hate my online persona, I’ve come to realize, and I’m not sure how to go about fixing this. Given that I’m ostensibly a nonfictionist, this is both bizarre and disturbing. It makes me think, perhaps I am more abrasive in person than I ever considered, because I read my own words and think, “This person, she is so arrogant and insecure, with so much to prove. Try a little less hard, sweetie.” Which is perhaps why I let all social networking sites languish as soon as I’ve set them up.
I want to be better about this. I want to review the books I’m reading, post exam notes, engage the deafening Internet silence. Maybe this will be my year?
Blech, post-birthday melancholia.