If you didn’t already know, I had my second public fiction reading on Thursday, December 13, 2012, at the University of Baltimore. This performance consisted of one (very) short story and parts of two longer ones from my thesis-in-progress. Since then, so far I’ve managed to do a little reading (in my head) but haven’t actually done any writing for my thesis manuscript, which is a collection of short stories about the struggles of communicating and home building.
I justify my procrastination by remembering that I needed to take care of some cleaning in my own home, because I did; the bathroom was long overdue. I also justify my procrastination by remembering that the reading I’ve done this month is research for my own book, and it is. I read the “Autism” section of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity. It was incredible. I’m still reading The Things They Carried, and so far it’s fantastic. Both of these books are related to my collection: I have a story about a child with Asperger’s/autism (haven’t yet decided where she falls on the spectrum) and another story that takes place during the Vietnam War. Actually, maybe the whole book takes place around that time. I haven’t decided. I’ll share more as it develops.
Now, it’s Christmas Day, which means I have just under a month. Class starts again on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, by which time I must have a full-fledged manuscript ready to be workshopped and scrutinized and revised for about 2 months. I worry that this isn’t enough time. I worry that my stories will never be as good as I want them to be, good enough to publish. But as much work as this is going to be for me, for all of us, I know that my MFA colleagues will help me steer this thing in the right direction, and I will do what I can to help them with their books.
Still, sometimes I worry that I’m not good enough to be here. Maybe that’s okay, though. Hubris is overrated. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this program, it’s that writing is harder than many people think and good writing—let alone great writing—only comes with tons of practice. So in effect, I’ve learned that this book will not be perfect and that it really is okay to be okay with that. I’ve really only been writing creatively for a few years now anyway, and if it takes 10,000 hours for someone to reach mastery of something, I still have many hours to go. But as one brilliant colleague of mine recently said, even after 5,000 hours, one has to be pretty damn good. Even if I only reach a fraction of that time for now, this will be my book; it will be the best book that I can write at this point in my life. I’ll take comfort in knowing that there will be more to come. This book isn’t even published yet, and I’m already looking forward to meeting the practiced hand that will produce my next book.