This weekend, all I have done is read and write criticism (well, okay, also a bit of revision on creative work. But). Post-Clarion and post-exams both involved fairly serious crises of confidence. I wrote through them, and said crises now seem to be dissipating to manageable levels. For a few months there all I could do was read. Then I got my writing routine back. Then I started subbing again. The one thing that kept hanging out on the periphery, refusing to come in from the cold, was my critical work. I kept opening my exam paper draft, knowing I should revise it toward publication, but I couldn’t see how. Not a clue where to begin, what to change, or even how I’d managed to write the damn thing in the first place.
Then this weekend I binge read a ton of nonsite and Post45 and a whole pile of articles on postmodernism and magical realism and my brain remembered how much it loves this stuff. Wrote out a revision plan and some new sentences this morning after hacking and slashing through my old draft. It’s a mess. How could I ever have thought it was coherent? Ack! But no matter. Because I can see the damn thing now, and that means I can start wrangling it. I’m sure that just like my creative work I’ll probably have to ruin it completely a few times before I figure out how to fix the various gaping logic holes I papered over in order to pass exams, but I’ve regained my enthusiasm enough that I can open the document without experiencing sinking dread.
Why my brain has terrible timing: The two professors I worked with on said paper? One is on leave next semester, and the other is preparing for maternity leave. Now that I know my revision process a bit better, I generally need 3-6 months to be able to see a draft clearly (creative or critical), and then another 3-6 months to implement revisions. So I should be done revising right about when they both become totally unavailable. Sigh.
Also wrote up an abstract for submittal to a local conference, read through several friends’ manuscripts I’ve been meaning to get to, and subbed a few new things. This week has also been the first in over a month when I haven’t felt crippled with near-constant sinus headaches. I acquired some wicked meds from the doctor on Monday, and they seem to be working. It’s amazing how much more effective I am when not fighting through a wall of pain. Should’ve done that weeks ago.
The rigid academic boundaries set up between criticism and creative work kept me from seeing this for far too long, but as often as I say that all I want is time to write creatively, it’s a lie. I had this realization right before WorldCon: I love criticism just as much as my creative work, and I’m unhappy when one comes at the expense of the other. I need a balance, which means setting aside some time each week for reading critical work alongside fiction/creative nonfic (this I’ve been doing anyway) and for critical draft generation alongside my creative writing time (which I haven’t been doing). Everything I learned during exams I’ve allowed to atrophy. No wonder I’ve been feeling so envious of my creative colleagues publishing on BigOther and HTMLgiant, and so lachrymose about my academic prospects in general. Well, no more of that nonsense. It’s terribly hard, and I keep falling down and disappointing myself (and others), and I’m awfully late to recognize the obvious, but ever so slowly I’m piecing together the life I want for my futureself. Crit or bust.