Friday, October 05, 2012

The Space Between Letters

In yesterday's Bookbuilding class, we played an online game that demonstrated the principles of kerning. Kerning is the space between letters - too close, and they look crowded. Too far apart, and gaps become distracting. In the game, you have to move the letters until you think you've found the perfect balance, and then the game grades your effort. I was surprisingly good at this task and got a 98 - the highest grade in the class. I couldn't help but shake my head at the irony - there I was, excelling at a game that was all about balance and control, while coming off a week that was all about existing in panic mode, clawing my way from one looming deadline to the next, and finishing things at the last sloppy minute. The universe has a strange sense of humor.

On the bright side, today marks the official beginning of Fall Break, which means UNCW cancels classes on Monday and Tuesday, which means I'm looking at a five day weekend (minus wine shop shifts, of course), which means I might just have time to redeem myself. I have grand plans to catch up on my grading, read ahead in my books, and make actual progress on my novel (the first 30 pages are due for workshop in less than two weeks).

Since this is technically supposed to be a "break," I'm also going to do a few fun, relaxing things. Relaxation! I hardly remember what it is! Kayaking on Saturday. Working on our fall garden. Maybe hosting a potluck. Part of the reason that I've been so stressed is that school is taking over my life, which is good, but only so far as it helps my writing. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm here, above all else, to write. Not to teach, not to discuss novels, not to make friends and hang out at the YMCA and learn InDesign. Those other things are important, and they bring me a lot of joy, but if I'm not writing, then I don't deserve any of them. Harsh, perhaps, but true. Remember - I have three short years in this program, and I'm already in the middle of year two. It is, quite literally, now or never. I'm hoping that a little relaxation, a step away from my books, will help me re-focus on my own writing, my own projects. A little selfishness goes a long way, especially when you're trying to be a writer.

That said, it is now 8:30AM. I have had two cups of coffee. The dogs are growing impatient for their morning walk. I have a novel to write. And you know what? It's going to get done. Slowly, surely, with a little stress and a dash of panic, yes. But the harder I work, and the more weeks like this last one that I survive, it gets a little easier. I learn yet another lesson about balance and limits. I find my way through school, through work, though life. It's like the kerning game - shift the letters to the right and to the left, lean back in your chair, and accept that this is as close as you're going to get. With a little practice and a lot of hope, the letters eventually fall into place.

7 comments:

  1. you're making me so curious about creative writing MFA programs. I'm seriously considering applying places in a year or two. Ahh.

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    1. If you want any advice about applying to programs (it is a daunting, humbling, time consuming, and ulcer inducing process) let me know. It took me two rounds of applications to get into the program, with the aid package, that I wanted/needed, and I am happy to pass on my hard won lessons. :)

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  2. I loved this post. I hope this weekend of relaxing and finding the right amounts of space between the different components of your life recharges you and gets you writing like the wind.

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    1. Ditto what R said! I love this too. Sometimes I find it helpful to think of balance on a long-term scale, which means that some weeks are intensely dedicated to a small number of things. Other weeks are a little more relaxed. And some weeks are just out of whack because of forces beyond your control.

      Eyes on the prize, my dear. You are doing just fine! Keep working on that novel.

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  3. Not that you need distraction, but I discovered this cute little typography game just before I read your post, so I figured I'd pass it along: http://www.typeconnection.com/step1.php

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  4. Your weekend sounds like it will be lovely. Hopefully it will help you recharge :)

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