It feels like it’s been an awfully long time since I’ve talked about writing. When the Spring semester classes for college started, that ate up most of my time and what wasn’t claimed there was spent on family, work, or my social life. Then my sister passed, and life since then has been pretty full dealing with the fallout from that. I’ve withdrawn from this semester of classes, but it hasn’t felt like a lot of free time has opened up.
Slowly but surely, though, things have begun to settle. Now that I’m away from school I’m beginning to wonder if pursuing a degree at this point is something I really want to do; it’ll take me over two years of constant work (taking classes during the summer and winter breaks) just to get an Associate’s Degree with an intent to transfer. After that, it’ll likely take me three years at least to earn a BS in Psychology.
I think there are better ways I can help, right now. Volunteering with NAMI, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or any number of other organizations geared towards mental health might be a more immediate way to work with those who need the most help right away. I can also study outside of classes, learning more about mental health issues, the state of current treatments for them, and the barriers that so many different people face in getting the help they need.
But that’s a post for a different day. I’ve got a minute to think about writing, so let’s reflect on where I am with that aspect of my life.
The short answer is not well at all. Going to college was difficult, as I expected, but I also underestimated how much time it was going to take away from everything else. Work has been pretty hairy even though customers have been quiet — shifting to ten-hour days four times a week means free time during work days are at a premium. A lot of what’s happened over the past several months has forced me to become more organized and focused, which needed to happen. But it’s also made it all but impossible to focus on my writing.
Now that I’m not taking classes for at least three and a half months, I can start turning my attention back towards writing. I’m not sure if it’s possible to develop a full-fledged writing practice, but I’m sure interested in trying. So I’ll go ahead and announce my intention to write 1,000 words a day every day from June 1st until September 1st. The best part is that intention will face a pretty stiff test right off the bat — I’ll be going to Biggest Little Fur Con at the beginning of the month, and fan conventions are notoriously difficult places to write if you, say, have ADHD.
But that’s a good challenge to start off with, right? If I can nail 1,000 words in the chaos of a furry convention in Reno, I can do it pretty much anywhere, at any time.
I also know that I don’t read nearly enough, and that’s something that pains me greatly. I’m never going to get better as a writer if I don’t read voraciously, and I’ve struggled with that for an awfully long time. Life is so busy that it’s hard to find space for something that feels like a rare and idle pleasure, and these days it feels especially difficult to single-task in the manner that reading requires. But that might actually be why cultivating a reading habit is so essential; it forces you to slow down and pay attention to what’s right in front of you. It’s hard to fall under the spell of something you’re only giving half your attention to.
There’s a tremendous stack of books to read on my shelf right now, and it’s time to start making a dent in them. I’d like to write more short stories, so focusing on those is a good idea to start with. A couple of friends bought some really neat short story collections for me and I’ve subscribed to Apex Magazine, Fireside Fiction and a few other publications that have choice works out right now. There’s no shortage of things to read; it’s just a matter of building the hunger for it.
So, I resolve to finish “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin by the end of the month and start going in on short stories, novels, graphic novel collections and other things soon after that. I resolve to talk more about the things I’m writing and reading, the lessons I’m learning from acting and observing, how my skill and understanding as a writer is developing.
I know that I have a tendency to over-commit to things, so I’ll be careful — I’m setting my sights low, but I also need to make sure I’m devoting a significant amount of time to this to prove my intention. Resolving to read and write every day — and finding ways to create time for both of them — is something I can do for at least a few months; once September rolls around, I can take a step back and see if this feels better.
Also, hopefully, this will let me make more polished posts here and accelerate the development of my voice, which I’ve always wondered about. What will I sound like when my mish-mash of influences coheres into something unique? It’s an exciting thought. I’m looking forward to finding out.