hiatus

hiatus n. 1. A break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc. 2. A missing part; gap or lacuna. 3. Any gap or opening. 4. Grammar: the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily. 5. Anatomy: a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

I had to take a break.

It wasn’t a break at all; I just didn’t write any blog posts for, what, six months? I think that happens sometimes. Sometimes there just isn’t much to share. I’d rather give you something more interesting (an admittedly subjective term) than unabashed naval-gazing. You’re welcome.

Here’s the update, in case you’re interested in the fissure in my blog and want to bring everything together:

My agent and I are on revision #5,675,554 of Forms in the Shadows. Of course I’m exaggerating. It’s more like revision #1,761. I’m still exaggerating. But you get the idea. I’ve never revised more in my life; it’s a different book. And I’ve learned—and am still learning—about process, about what works and doesn’t work, about the conventions of genre and what readers may or may not want and about which rules to break and which to follow. I’ve always believed that all learning is good learning, even if it stings or burns or bruises you while it’s happening. I’ll leave that there for now.

(Said agent, whom a friend of mine calls “super-agent,” gives me the kind of careful feedback that I’ve always craved. I have no idea how I got so lucky to sign with her–she took a huge fucking chance on me–but hey. Better not to ask too many questions where such things are concerned.)

I finished and defended my dissertation (successfully). So now I’m overqualified for almost everything and have about a million dollars in student loans to worry about, but the diploma on my wall reminds me that the past five years weren’t wasted. Goddamn it, I did it. And now I’m on hiatus from “academic” writing, even though I have three articles underway. It’s just for a while. A short break.

I’ve been writing fiction like mad again, and yet I’m not completely sure that I trust where my muse is taking me right now. I’m not questioning it, at least not in the daytime. Sometimes I lie awake at night and worry. But, hey, there’s time. And if it doesn’t work? On to the next. That’s what revision is for.

I taught a fabulous summer class on women in contemporary comedy and got myself a full-time teaching job for next year. This is good, because my partner wasn’t looking forward to working two, maybe three jobs, and medical benefits are always a plus. Teaching three classes a semester. . . we’ll see how that bodes for writing time, but hey. I’ll call it a learning experience. And I belong in a classroom; my teaching persona is much more interesting than I am, and I like hanging out with her.

That said, the paradox is that right now and through August, I’m writing full-time, exploring, and loving it even when it terrifies me. I have my ass in this chair for over eight hours a day (though I typically take a day off on the weekends), and that thing we learned in our creative writing classes is true: write every day and call yourself a writer. You can write complete shit, but you’re a writer. Most of what I write is shit. But I’m a writer, and sometimes that shit crystallizes into something that I might want to share with someone someday.

In case you’re bored, here’s a new writing exercise I came up with that seems to be working for me right now, even if it might give the impression that I have a personality disorder (as if referring to my teaching persona in the third person didn’t do that already):

Compose a fake email exchange between your narrator/protagonist and yourself, in which you discuss the direction of the story (or character, or setting, or whatever is giving you problems). I began by asking her where the hell she was. It took her less than two hours to reply; she’d been there the whole time. When I first started doing this? I thought I’d gone completely round the bend. But then I had some sort of weird creative epiphany; it broke me out of the pseudo creative block that I was wading through; it’s getting me into a side project, a weird piece completely outside my genre (gasp!). The second book in the Elizabeth Boyle mystery series is coming along, too, even though at one point I tried to do weird shit like outlining, which drove me to drink. Outlining never works for me, and I know it. A story happens organically, at least for this writer.

So that’s that. Thanks for reading.

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