“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

10 May 2012

As promised, on writing

UPDATE: I am not the technological genius you believed me to be (ha ha). I thought I'd posted this yesterday, and instead I just saved it. Fail. Here you are then.

I promised I would write about writing, and I keep my promises. Of course, writing about writing is a bit too meta for someone like me (I have a tendency to veer into the philosophical when discussing turkey sandwiches or subway smells) so I'll try to keep myself on track here.

In case you somehow missed this: I attend the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I'm studying Writing for Children and Young Adults, and in roughly 21 months I will have my masters degree. At which point I will require you all to address me as "Master Cary Diers" or, alternatively, "Master Jenny, Empress of Narrative." My husband is so excited about this, I can tell you. The program is low-residency, which means that I spend most of my time accountable only to myself. It's good training for the gut-wrenching, hair-pulling, time-devouring life of a novel writer. It's also good training for living like a grown-up.

My first semester advisor, Mark Karlins, has been excellent. He's gentle with me but never patronizing. His comments are concise and fair. When I need a butt-kicking, he administers it politely. And when I succeed, he helps me actually believe in my success... I think that last bit might be the most valuable piece of all. He's also a brilliant writer in his own right (see here, here, and here) which completely negates the worn-out adage that "those who can't do, teach." Not that I believed that anyway.

I've always been a voracious reader; now I read more and more in-depth than ever before. I write with purpose and I edit with a finer eye. I understand terminology I'd never even heard before. I dream about editing, too, which is neither as scary nor as productive as you'd think. I've made incredible friends in my semester classmates. I'm working on a novel which might turn out to be my best work yet-- although it's impossible to tell at this point-- and Mark is helping me to ask myself the hard questions. His help is absolutely invaluable. I dread giving up his critique next semester, although I know I'll fall just as much in love with my next advisor too. I am a baby bird, and Papa Bird must thrust me from the nest. He thinks I can fly. I'm just hoping I fall with style.

When I first broached the topic of attending graduate school for writing, even I thought I was a little bit crazy. Wasn't I an actress? A singer? A performer? Wasn't that what I'd always been, and thereby who I was as well? I certainly thought so at the time. Looking back at that long period of wondering, of questioning my choices and pondering my purpose, I wish I could speak to that woman from here. I wish I could say: Don't worry so much about who you are. Your soul is an intact creation, whole and complete and everlasting. No one can take that away from you. A vocation is only a way to spend time; the goal is to enjoy it and to make it mean something. We are not what we do, but what we make of it.

See that? I slipped into philosophy there. That means it's time for me to wrap up this rambling account. The sun is shining, the birds are conversing, and there are strawberries in my fridge begging to be eaten. Plus, I need to get editing the start of chapter five.

As promised, a cat photo:

Blessings to you all, and good luck on your journey today.