Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Change for the Better


Earlier in the month, I made some goals. They did not seem especially lofty at the time but, as the month wears on, I am beginning to realize that I might have been aiming a little high. The two goals I'm thinking of right now are my plans to write and read for 30 minutes a day, each.

These goals don't sound very difficult, but the truth is that the way I currently live is not conducive to creative pursuits. This is the main reason that I'm planning to uproot my life in order to get an MFA in creative writing. A more driven, ambitious and disciplined writer would not need to take such drastic measures to get her writing done. Alas, it turns out I am not (yet!) that writer. The truth is that I'm mildly drive, slightly ambitious and disciplined only in starts and spurts. I fizz out quickly and lose momentum faster than you can pour a glass of wine and get sucked into three episodes of True Blood after a long day of boring, soul-crushing work at your full time job.

Here is the main problem, as I see it: I do my best writing and thinking from 8 in the morning until about noon. If I have those hours to myself, I can get so much work done - writing, revising, reading, and researching. My brain synapses are snapping! My creative juices are flowing! My fingers are flying across the keyboard and ideas and words are pouring out of me and on to the screen! It's magical and I love it and I can't think of a time when I feel more alive.

Do you know what I'm usually doing from 8 in the morning until noon? Sitting at my desk, in a small office, in a tall building, in the middle of a university, in the heart of East Texas. I am doing work for other people instead of work for myself. I am wasting the best part of my day in pursuit of someone else's goals. This is not my strategic plan. This is not where I want to be in five years.

Which is convenient, because in less than a month I will no longer be at this desk. In less than two months, I will be in a classroom, writing stories and talking about literature and getting to know a cohort of other writers who are just as crazy as I am. An MFA? In creative writing? Really? Okay. In two months, my life will be so completely different from it's current version. My classes will be in the afternoons and evenings. My mornings will be mine. I will be living near the ocean and running on the coast and spending my time - 8 in the morning until about noon, specifically - writing, revising, reading and researching. The truth is I am driven, ambitious and dedicated, if not completely disciplined, when it comes to writing. My current life is not conducive to creative pursuits, and so I am changing my life.

Thus, my revised June goals: finish drafts of two new short stories (one is done; the other I started this morning) and finish reading White Teeth. These thing should be manageable, no matter what my life currently looks like.

18 comments:

  1. I so admire you for taking what you love to the next level and embarking on huge changes to make it happen. Far too often I limit myself to what is practical because I'm afraid of failing, but you are really striking out and are determined to make it work, no matter what happens or might be in the way. So excited for you!

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  2. I admire that you're able to be flexible and adjust your schedule as your needs change. This is something I've struggled with as my year has evolved in ways I never imagined back in January. I'm happy with the changes - I'm making some steady money and have the opportunity to do creative writing in a way that generates income. But it's totally thrown off the goals I set for myself early in the year - back before I had any clue what was going to happen 5 months down the road (damn my lack of ESP). Adjusting my creative goals for my new creative life has been quite the challenge, but I'm learning!

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  3. Thanks Jessica! That means a lot to me. :) I am usually very practical so this is definitely outside my comfort zone - especially the part where i slash my income by 2/3. Even though I'm nervous and anxious about the changes, I'm not afraid of them. My gut tells me this is the thing that will make me happy, and I can't argue with that. :)

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  4. Thanks Allyson! I used to less flexible with myself but I've found that allowing my goals to change and shift makes me happier and, in the end, more productive. It's hard to plan for the future and be open to new opportunities at the same time, but it's also pretty exciting. We can learn how to do it together. :)

    Also, I tried to follow the link to your blog but I keep getting an error message. Just wanted to let you know. 

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  5. That is because I typed it incorrectly when I was filling out the Disqus thingy. I cannot believe I can't remember my own blog URL.  :P

    http://allysonmwhipple.wordpress.com

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  6. Ha! I've done many things like that. Glad that I can properly stalk you now. :)

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  7. Yeah, and I totally stole your whole Weekend Adventures thing, too.  :P 

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  8. "I fizz out quickly and lose momentum faster than you can pour a glass of wine and get sucked into three episodes of True Blood after a long day of boring, soul-crushing work at your full time job." - Hallelujah, someone feels the way I do. I have this creeping notion that your blog is about to become a bad (re: good) influence on me. I have toyed with the idea of going back to school for English lit but truth be told, I'm scared because it doesn't seem logical or boring enough for the real world's money system/income/jobs. Even though I love it to death. I'm my own worst enemy sometimes.

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  9. "I am doing work for other people instead of work for myself. I am wasting the best part of my day in pursuit of someone else's goals." - YES! So true and good for you for doing something about it! 

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  10. I would love to be a bad/good influence on someone! I will say that I've been planning this MFA thing for a while and have paid off my credit cards and saved up quite a bit of money in preparation. Now, as for what I will do when I graduate? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. For the next three years, though, I'm set. :)

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  11. Thanks Anastasia! The plus side is that people will pay an awful lot of money for you to do things for them. Luckily, I am good at being poor. :)

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  12. Way to chase your dreams and goals! Your soon to come schedule sounds wonderful! Especially the writing in the morning and running along the coast part...sigh...amazing. I wish you all the best with it!

    Also, just on a side note, the day will come when you will hate grad school and forgot all those reasons that made you apply to begin with. When that day comes, make sure to come back here and reread this very post. 

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  13. Chrissy, I think it's really, really awesome that you are on the cusp of this big change.  I can't wait to follow along as you move to NC and start your MFA.  So exciting!

    But...because I am a contrarian (forgive me), I'll offer a counterpoint.  I've struggled with trying to decide whether to pursue writing full-time, and in the end, I keep coming back to cooking and writing as hobbies and keeping my full-time (and good-paying!) science job.  While I would love to have more time to focus on food and writing, I like the total freedom and independence that I have because I don't make my livelihood through those means.  My creative pursuits are mine, and since I'm a control freak, I like that sense of power.

    It is worth mentioning, though, that I have a good deal of independence in my career now too.  It comes with a lot of responsibility and high expectations, but I think that it's worth it.  I don't feel like I'm working for someone else (even though I am), and that makes my days more enjoyable.

    I guess the important thing is to figure out what your happy balance is between independence, creative activity, and income :-)

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  14. Too true. I'm sure there will be hard times ahead! One thing I have going for me is that I've spent a number of years in the "real world" doing the 8-5 desk job thing. This post and that experience should hopefully keep me in a constant state of gratefulness. ;)

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  15. Rose-Anne, this is a great point and a very good thing to be reminded of, especially when I get all lovey-dovey about an experience I haven't even had yet. :)

    While I am probably idealizing the MFA experience a bit, I have to remind myself that the school part only lasts three years. When I graduate, I will have to get a real job once again. This time, however, I am going to try and find a position like your science job - something I actually like, that offers both flexibility and freedom and offers a paycheck that can support me while I peddle my writing. I don't expect to live off my writing alone, but I do think that getting an MFA will help me find a job that I love and that is in some way related to writing. Teaching, most likely, but possibly working for a magazine or a journal as an editor.

    The main thing is that I don't want to work an office job, trapped at a desk for 40 hours a week. Been there, done that, was miserable. I know alternatives are out there and I'm on my way to finding out what they are. :)

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  16. I missed this post earlier, but I think we have discussed how we are both morning people who do our best work in the morning.  I'm trying to set myself up for more success in that regard - getting up earlier and running or going to the gym sometimes later in the day even though I also prefer to run in the morning.  The problem is that once the semester starts I will lose two of my mornings to teaching and probably at least one other morning a week to committee meetings, etc.  So I want to maximize the time that I work best, but I also want to encourage myself to work at times that aren't "optimal" because I don't want to not get research and writing done just because I couldn't do it in the morning.  And the more I get myself to produce words in the afternoon or occasionally in the evening the easier it becomes, so that after a few weeks my brain works almost as well in the pm as in the am.  

    I admire your ability to take things in stride and adjust your goals.  I loved White Teeth when I read it a few years ago.  I hope you enjoyed it!

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  17. You're so right. Being flexible is really the best thing for any pursuit and I need to learn to be disciplined at any time of the day or night.

    I try to think of writing like running, and remind myself that each activity requires a certain amount of practice and "training," which is what you're saying here. Thanks for the reminder!

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