Back in February, an ice storm tore across the Northeast. It started Friday morning as rain and by the end of the day a good four inches of ice had accumulated on the ground. Broken in from my New England college years, I didn’t think much of it. So on the following Satruday morning, I awoke early, showered and dressed in preparation for a day in the city. There was an exhibit to view, a play to see and food to sample. With a quick glance in my mirror, I kicked up my cowboy boots, surprisingly perfect footwear for sloppy city streets, and headed out to my car. As expected, ice coated everything. I leaned across the driver’s seat, turned on the ignition and set every button to hot and high. Then I got down to work. I chiseled. I scraped. And when it was all said and done, I crawled into the car, shifted the gears to reverse and gently tapped the accelerator.
Okay, fine, I got something. I got spinning wheels. When I looked at the car to my left, I could actually see a reflection of my front left tire zipping in motion. My foot wasn’t even on the pedal at this point. Not willing to accept my fate, I spent the next hour trying to work my tires onto some ground it could grab hold of. No matter what I did, the wheels spun. I eventually gave up, yelped ‘mother fucker’ to nothing in particular, kicked a tire and retreated to my apartment.
The defeat I felt that day, the sense of going through motions without seeing results, is the same way I’m feeling right now with my writing class. I’m stuck. I’m spinning my wordsmithing wheels and I haven’t moved one measly inch.
The first week I was instructed to write an essay noting the moment I learned something about myself. I reworked a previous piece. Not because I didn’t want to write something new but because I wanted to use the classroom setting as an opportunity to improve upon something I truly felt had potential. It was met with helpful feedback and a suggested place for submission. I smiled a little and shrugged a little before moving on.
The next week I was instructed to write an essay noting the moment I learned something about someone else. Again, I reworked a previous piece for all of the aforementioned reasons. The topic was my dad and the feedback was absent. Like you could hear a pin drop absent. Fine, two classmates and the instructor posted commentary. There’s something like twelve students in the class. And based on the format and structure, I could see that those who never commented on mine had taken the time to comment on all of the other submissions. I sighed a little and shrugged a little before moving on.
The third week I was instructed to rework one of the previous pieces for the sake of sending it somewhere for publication. I sat down at my computer, brought up both essays and gave a go at editing them according to suggestions from my peers.
Listen, I’m not arrogant or stupid enough to think those pieces are flawless. As far as I’m concerned my writing always needs work. The same way an artist glances at her painting and sees an erred stroke. I ended up with nothing because I landed right back where I’ve been with regard to my writing or at least my essay writing. There isn’t a specific market for it. Unlike my classmates, I don’t write essays about being a mom or owning a pet or traveling the world. I don’t maintain a certain theme or focus. I just write. Whatever is on my mind. Which explains how I can create a blog that one week discusses the pitfalls of giving myself a bikini wax and the next week discusses the challenges of managing the day to day of a crippled parent. I write about life. My life. All of it. And in case you couldn’t tell, it isn’t neat and it isn’t tidy and it sure as heck doesn’t fit within the format of Self or Jane or Modern Love.
I posted a general comment to my class earlier tonight simply titled ‘Stuck’ and sent out a plea for help and direction. Two people responded already telling me to ixnay the pressure to publish and to just keep on writing. To keep on reworking what I’ve written regardless of where it could or should ultimately land. I like that advice. And I plan on taking it. Quitting is the last thing I would ever want to do. Walking away is just as bad as never trying. I get it and I’ve already set aside tomorrow night to plow through my edits.
Anyway, I also realized something else these last few days as I struggled to unstuck myself. I think I want to redirect my literary efforts back to fiction. It’s where I started way back when and it’s where I find the most satisfaction. This blog is this blog mostly because I admired and adored the written structure and format used here. I figured there was no appeal to a fiction blog so I went with the trend. And I’ll admit that it’s worked. For the most part. Nontheless, I’m starting to question if my literary success is truly tucked within the confines of personal essays.
With all of that said, since earlier this year, I’ve been mentally reworking that short story I wrote last year, building it into something more significant. I think it’s there. I think that story has a nice skeleton on which to attach some meat. Maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe I’m right. Either way, I’m ready to set aside some time to figure that out too. I’m ready to be unstuck.