I know that unless I become the next Rowling or Martin I won’t have a career as just a writer.
However, I can find it really difficult to come home from work and write.
Currently, I am in grad school and I have two part time jobs (one might be full-time very soon). I’m also going to therapy once a week so I can try to keep my mental health in check. So, more often than not, when I get home from work or class, or doing whatever else I need to do, writing is the last thing on my mind.
Usually I want to eat dinner, or relax and watch Netflix, not force my brain to think about the complexities involved with writing.
I feel like I need to lock myself in a room and focus on nothing but writing.
I wish I could do that.
I’ve started to look at Writing Retreats but I feel like they’re all either too far away, interfere with school or I can’t afford them.
I try to get my writing on a schedule but I’m also just not someone who works like that. My creativity can’t be forced, or put on a time table.
Will I ever be a successful writer if I’m not able to change this aspect of myself?
Is it a matter of forcing myself to write, even when I don’t want to?
I know I’m not the first one to experience the frustration that comes with #writerproblems.
Listening to writers talk about writers block isn’t new. In fact it is also a stereotype when it comes to writers.
I’m wondering if writers block and being burnt out are the same thing to a writer, because right now I am burnt out.
I have the desire to write.
I have ideas running around up in my head, a fanfiction that needs to be finished, I have plenty of things I my mind I could talk about.
However, making the effort to sit in front of a blank word document at my laptop or stare at a blank page of one of my note books seems like too much.
The only reason that I’m writing this now is because I’m forcing myself to do it.
School will be over for the semester soon and I keep telling myself that my fire to write will come back.
I have faced this problem in the past. I get burned out during the semester being forced to write certain things, by certain perimeters, or given specific prompts and it puts a slight damper on my creativity. Usually when the stress of that semester ends, things get better.
This time I’m more worried.
The novel that I have been pouring the last few years of my life into doesn’t seem to hold my attention anymore.
I’ve had thoughts about diving into the revamp of my first novel because at least the bones of the story are worked out. Yet I haven’t made a move to do this either.
My last blog post exposed some of my frustrations with my program and who I am as a writer and I can’t help but wonder if this is a big part of what is wrong.
I feel beat down by a program that I was so excited to be a part of, that I thought I wanted.
Now I’m starting to worry that I was wrong about so many things, including things that I want.
Having depression and anxiety as a creative person is fun!
“Genre isn’t what we do in this program” said the professor for my fiction workshop class who also happens to be the director of my program.
I can’t even begin to describe the emotions that smacked me in the face when I heard that.
I started crying in the middle of my class, in front of everyone. Usually I don’t have a problem crying in front of other people, but I’m sure most of my fellow MFA students thought I was crying because my short story was getting ripped apart. In reality I was crying because I felt like what I write in general was getting ripped apart and I’m sure plenty of other people have felt that.
Let me start off by saying that I think fiction should be a wide association that includes fantasy, sci-fi, historical and more realistic fiction. The MFA program I’m in only wants me to write realistic fiction, maybe historical fiction if I’m lucky.
The piece I wrote was set in Victorian England and I didn’t think it had any fantasy aspects. It wasn’t set in another world, it didn’t have magic, or vampires or anything that doesn’t exist in this world. It was just about a secret society that operated outside of the notice of most people and wanted to shape the world in their image.
With the current state of the world that didn’t seem like much of a stretch.
My classmates barely had enough time to tell me what they enjoyed about the short story before my professor was jumping in and telling me that my story was “genre writing”. I was confused for two reasons:
I didn’t feel like the story was genre
She was saying genre writing like it was a bad thing that her MFA students shouldn’t deign to waste their time on.
I don’t understand why “Literary fiction” just includes authors like John Green or Nicholas Sparks. Story lines that seem to be these thinly veiled wish fulfillment stories where the author can insert themselves into the life they always wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written those pieces.
When I was in middle school, maybe a freshman in high school, I started to write a story called ‘Love in the Rainbow’ (points to me for worst title ever while unknowingly also foreshadowing my own gayness). It was a story about a quirky girl who was exactly my age and who had the dog I dreamed of getting and the car I wanted, and was much better off financially than my family, she even had a name I liked better than my own. She had the older sister I had always wanted, a father who was always there for her and her mother had passed away. She had amazing friends, was popular and pretty and eventually fell in love.
Meanwhile I was a young girl who had a horrible relationship with her own mother, felt betrayed by my father always taking her side, had an older brother who I couldn’t connect with and a family that was always worried about money. I barely had any friends, I was bullied and made fun of and no guy had ever showed even the slightest interest in anything having to do with me.
I hated the real world. I hated being reminded of it by books. I didn’t want to read something about an awkward young girl learning to love herself, I wanted to escape.
I wanted to travel through Moria with the Fellowship because fighting goblins felt like less of a battle than the fights I had with my mother.
I wanted to go to Hogwarts where I might be able to make friends with people who were as unique as I was.
I wanted to go through the looking glass because maybe in Wonderland I would be able to find someone who was backward enough to look at me and see someone beautiful.
When my professor told me that genre writing wasn’t welcome in the program I have been pouring my wit, words and ideas into I just felt like quitting.
I’m putting my time, effort and money into a program that doesn’t even allow me to write what I am passionate about. Why should I stay?
Of course the practical side of my brain reminded me that I want my MFA to be able to teach at the college level, so I don’t plan on quitting.
Still I wish I could make some of my professors understand what fantasy novels have done for me.
They helped a girl who felt alone and wrong find a place in the world, they helped her find something she is passionate about, something that she can live for.
How can that be unworthy of anyone’s time and attention?
We were challenged to submit some of our work to literary journals or publications for submissions.
The first place I submitted was UB’s publication Skelter. I submitted a short piece of flash fiction and a little piece of non fiction I wrote. In fact I have published both of them on my blog here.
Both of them were rejected from Skelter and it was very disheartening to me. The only time that I have been published in my own school’s literary publication was the semester I myself was working on it. I submitted a piece of non-fiction and I was the fiction editor so I had no hand in getting it published but I haven’t had any luck before or since.
After my rejection from Skelter, the rejections from three other publications I submitted to also came to me.
At one point in my life, I wanted to be an actor, which probably has as much rejection as my current field does, maybe even more rejection.
I wonder why I am a glutton for the punishment that I have now picked two careers where huge aspects of my life are judged. Why do I feel the need to be a writer instead of something else, something more steady and stable and less judged?
My answer: this is what I love.
I’ve been writing since I was little. I wrote on a typewriter, I carried an extra notebook with me all through high school and it was what I was known for.
I have gotten better. Sometimes I am able to look at my own writing and see that it has changed. I don’t even want to say improved because that is so subjective, but there is growth.
So why do I continue to be so hard on myself?
Somehow I doubt that is something I will learn in my MFA program.