Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kicking Off


It is the eve of the semester, although classes don’t start for another week. Tomorrow begins what has been newly named Kickoff Week, a change from Work Week, which became politically incorrect since the name suggested that nobody has been working all summer. The perception by staff is that faculty have been lounging all summer (yeah right), and Work Week doesn't acknowledge that every week is a work week for staff. And so, on this eve of kicking off, I have nary a thought about my intentions for the upcoming teaching semester, and what I'm kicking off to, but rather I have a greater sense of what I'm kicking off from.

 This summer looked completely different from last summer, appropriately titled Camp Amy. Last summer, status updates reflected the nature of camp, announcing my leisure for the day. Playing golf, then meeting a friend for lunch, then probably a nap. Camp was fully in session, and many days I awoke with a complete day of unplanned leisure before me.


Camp Amy only surfaced several times this summer. And while I lament a bit about a lack of constant carefree months, this summer proved productive. While I usually shirk any notion of celebrating productivity, a summer of writing is worthy of a few shout outs. 


Summer got a late start. The first five weeks were spent traveling and working in Ireland and Kentucky. Mid June officially kicked it off, with 12-15 hours a week devoted to revising/writing/editing da textbook with Liz. With our editor feeding us lots of bits to work on, we had consistent work. Often moaning after having to use my brain to dig deep, I regularly felt challenged, reminded that this is the most important piece of professional development I have ever undertaken. Finally, I am able to start seeing the finish, a destination that has often felt so distant that the landscape proved a blur.


Another 12-15 hours a week I devoted to working with da coach on my personal essay writing. When I began this path, I had particular goals, but wasn't entirely certain what really mattered to me on this journey. While I could not initially articulate how I might assess whether I had achieved many of my goals, such as building confidence, understanding the writerly me, and developing a practice as a writer;  today, I know much more about what these goals truly mean.


Building confidence in my sense of myself as a writer is not entirely achievable, mostly because I don't need to necessarily build confidence. Deep within I know that I am a good writer, and measuring my success as a writer doesn't rest in some external recognition (and that does not mean I don't desire that external recognition). And while I know that, it is really the doubt that I need to learn to accept, since that is an absolute. Some days I push through the doubt triumphantly, while other days I fall into it, and fall away a bit from my writing. But what is different, just several months into this writing journey, is that I know that the fall will not be forever, despite my loud shouts of doubt. Just last week, after getting back some feedback that said you've gone deep and now must go even deeper (really, must I), I doubted whether I could withstand a Sisyphus struggle, whether I had the drive to keep pushing. Yet, tonight, with some space and time, I wanted to sit down and write.


I have been practicing as a writer, and that is not something new. Over the years, I always write. Sometimes, though, my awareness of the writerly me is not present. Whether it's ideas generated in the creative writing classes I teach or irregular blog bursts, I do practice as a writer. What I actually wanted was to see myself as a writer. And that comes and go with the same rhythm as doubt.


My most important goal, I believed, was to "finish pieces so they are ready for publication." While I'd be one big ass fibber to say I don't care about this, it's not the ultimate in this moment. Some days, I'm more successful with patience and willingness to work hard and trust my process, staying present with the writing rather than thinking about some future that is not here. Other days, I want to stamp my feet and whine.


What has risen to the top is embracing revision, even if it's a lukewarm embrace at times. Rather than run from the difficulties with particular pieces, I stick with them, puzzling through the various layers. Now don't get me wrong, I positively detest this at times, screaming at the page. Then, something breaks, and I re-see the possibilities.

And on this eve of Kickoff Week, my writing is where I land.

Listening to David Bowie's Best of Bowie and Moby's Destroyed

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