“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

24 January 2012

Back to the future.

Yes, yes, I know. I really haven't posted since November. I had a good reason, any number of good reasons. I apologize for my absence. One of my very good reasons is the subject of my blog post today.

I spent ten days in Vermont this past month studying at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was a weighty experience. Everything about VCFA is heavy-- the travel, the work load, the analysis, the lectures, the snow. Well, perhaps not so much snow in the summer. That remains to be seen. The point is that VCFA is not for the faint of heart. Or the poor of health, it turns out, though I'll get to that later.

Let me begin by saying this:

I learned more in this ten day period, about work and about writing and about life, than I did in the four years I spent on my undergrad. This is not an indictment of my alma mater. I did not study writing in undergrad, and so I have only myself to blame. Perhaps those who studied writing at other institutions were less dazzled than poor little overwhelmed me. All of my professors are famous. Many of my classmates are published. I felt silly and ill-prepared. I do not know the meaning of "objective correlative" or "cultivation theory." I did not know that semi-colons had gone out of style; indeed, I adore them! I knew I'd be going in behind and was prepared to catch up. But catching-up will take more than reading a few craft books and learning the lingo.

VCFA is a program for writers, for serious writers with serious goals. Well, I certainly have the goals. But I have not given myself permission to think of myself as a "serious writer." I'm not even sure what that means. Every lecture I attended, every workshop I sat in, gave me new insight on how to approach my own work. After Susan Fletcher's incredible lecture on exposition, I wanted to spend days ripping apart my own manuscript. I think most first semester students experienced this same awakening.

Some of my classmates (wonderful writers, all) had done almost no research before choosing this program. Some did not know our professors or recognize their work. I could not understand this. And yet, I felt they had a stronger sense of belonging, of purpose, than I did. I'm an excellent researcher, an above-average student, but what kind of writer am I? I'm not sure. And what does it mean that I do not know? I am a scholar of children's and young adult's books, but it does not necessarily follow that I'll write it well.

So now I am home, and I'm ill, and I think my body is punishing me. Ten days in frigid Vermont? Two days of hard, non-stop travel? No, no, I don't think so. You are going to bed. I suppose I expected it. But I still have school work to do, and a household to run, and eventually I'm going to have to take new work again. VCFA cannot be my whole life. It ought not to be anyone's. This balancing act of worker and artist and scholar and wife will take time to perfect. I'm working on it. It is hard.

My brain is too scattered. The bathroom needs cleaning.  I hate doing the laundry when it's snowy outside.

I promise to post something more coherent later.

At least my cats missed me.


Blessings to you and yours.