Staying Afloat


Here’s a secret. I don’t know if you know this, but writing is hard. Like, really hard sometimes.

OK, maybe that’s not such a secret.

So here’s the deal. I’m currently in the final semester of my MFA program. Which means I’m working on my master’s thesis. Which means that I have an approximately 150 page document that I’m trying to get into shape on regular deadlines. Which means that I have even less free time than I am used to have.

Woe is me, right?

Don’t worry. This post isn’t just me bemoaning my own lack of time management skills, I promise.

All this to say that I’ve let a lot of my other writing projects get sidetracked lately. I sold me first widely-ish available story and saw it published at the start of the month (yay!) and was certain that this event signaled the start of a new era of me submitting stories and getting accepted.

Well, that’s sort of how it’s worked.

I have worked on a couple other projects and submitted one other story since then, but my idealized plans never manage to live up to reality.

So, in thinking about what to write today, I came across the above picture. Considering all the deadline juggling I’ve been doing lately, the image struck me as particularly relevant. I think it’s a feeling many of us can relate to – as the water closes in overhead, we’re left desperately and defiantly holding a single source of light.

And sometimes, I think that’s all we need. The goal isn’t to coast along with everything figured out. My desk isn’t neat; it’s piled with stuff that’s probably half junk, half important papers I’ve forgotten exist. I’m writing right up to my deadlines. I’m procrastinating. I’m sure that, even now, I’m probably forgetting something else that I should be doing.

But I’m staying afloat. I’m holding on to the things that are important to me and moving steadily forward. I drafted a brand new story last night and, despite it being uncomfortably different than what I normally write, I think I’m happy with where it’s headed. I met my latest school deadline today. I actually am getting the things that I need to do finished on time. And, sure, there’s room for improvement. I hope to keep improving all the time. But there’s a lot of good going on right now. There are a lot of small things that I can take satisfaction in.

Like – guys – I saw Logan a couple days after it came out, and it’s absolutely amazing. Don’t watch it if you have trouble with violence, but the movie is an exciting example of what can be done with a very basic story. And by basic, I don’t mean lack of plot – I just mean small. It’s not a movie that aspires to huge effects and world-shaking events. It’s an intimately human story of people just trying to survive in a hostile world. And it’s a story of one man trying to come to terms with how he views himself and his role in the world around him.

For me as a writer, it’s a great example of what can be done with a simple story that doesn’t try to fulfill external expectations. Rather, Logan does what it needs to for the story being told, and the end result works incredibly well.

OK, excited fan-moment over.

So, yeah, it’s nothing revelatory, but that’s what I’m thinking at the moment. Even as I push myself to improve certain areas of my life, I’m working on being comfortable with where I am, with not always having everything figured out, with having little successes spread out over time. Deadlines come and go, stories get written, mistakes are made, good things take place – and all over the world, writers sit in front of desks – or in front of keyboards – and breath life into words.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Thanks for reading.


One thought on “Staying Afloat

  1. This is a good time for me to read this, b/c I’m in one of those “Wait, why do I do this, again?” spells. I also had high hopes at the beginning of the year, and although I’ve accomplished some good things, lately I’m barely treading water (and taking rejections too hard, something I always struggle with). In fact, some days I’m not treading, I’m going down a little. But okay, maybe I still have that hand out….


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