It has not been the summer that I anticipated nor expected. At first I thought I would be studying in Oxford and visiting all sorts of quaint British villages, but that fell through. Then I thought I would spend twelve weeks in total selfish abandon - honing photography skills, creating scrapbook pages, whittling away the TBR pile, and filling moleskine notebooks with written prose. While I have accomplished a bit in all those areas, I have not come anywhere close to meeting my expectations. My immediate reaction is one of sadness and disappointment, but if I am to follow my own advice from Life is a Verb, I must choose to respond with acceptance of what has happened, and anticipation of what I can still accomplish over the next few weeks.
Part of the reason for my less-than-stellar summer accomplishments is due to Mom's health. She is in the hospital - again. I feel as though I am working towards an RN degree whether I want one or not. I know more about hypertension, orthostatic-hypertension, and congestive heart failure than I truly care to. While typically these are three conditions that can be easily controlled through medications, Mom's situation is exacerbated because the drug used to manage one creates adverse effects in the other two. It is a delicate balance game of tweaking the meds to her best advantage, knowing that at some point in the future (two weeks in this case - but it could be as long as six months) they will need to be tweaked again. This not only requires that I physically be there with her, but it also exacts a certain amount of mental and emotional energy that takes away from my creative productivity.
But I also have learned something about myself that has been an eye-opener: I am rather self-defeating. I have always been a goal-driven person and to that end, I am highly organized with to-lists and deadlines. While I do not think there is anything wrong with being wired this way, I do think that it can be taken to the extreme - and I have most definitely taken it to the extreme (I can now envision my husband and daughter vigorously nodding their heads and shouting "It's about time!")
I become so fixed on the goal and the deadline, that I suck all the joy out of the project. I have done this for years - sometimes out of necessity, but oftentimes out of my own warped sense of duty. Take for example this novel project. When I began the process this spring, I was afraid that I wouldn't come up with an idea. Not only have I come up with one idea, I am beginning to create more and more narrative situations as time goes on. This is quite exciting, as I thought I had atrophied this portion of my brain beyond repair.
While I truly want to try to write for me - this particular project is fueled by the creative writing class that I will be teaching in the fall. I decided that in order for me to truly sympathize with the students, I should undergo the curriculum myself. Mind you - no one else has specified this requirement: not the principal, not the parents, not the students, not the creators of the program. Just me. And with each passing week I become more and more agitated because I am not as far along as I think I should be in order to meet the deadline of August 16th. Good grief, Molly --- change the deadline! Who cares if it isn't complete by then?
I have been reading numerous books and blogs by published authors who talk about spending years writing a book (I believe Susan Vreeland spent three years researching and writing Luncheon of the Boating Party and she is an accomplished bestselling author). Why do I think I have to write my first novel in twelve weeks?
I have also discovered that I really enjoy the time period in which I have set this historical fiction piece. I have always loved all things French (which is why I was a French major in college) and I am learning to really appreciate the art and artists of the Impressionist era. I have been immersing myself in this time period, by reading historical fiction, educational non-fiction, visiting museum exhibits, and writing a bit on my own; this is a great escape for me. And I truly believe that the more I surround myself with this kind of literature, the more realistic my own narrative will be. So why am I denying myself the pleasure of the process in order to meet this arbitrary goal? I have no valid answer for that, which necessitates that I change this way of thinking.
So while this is not a big an earth shattering idea for many of you, this is a major break-through for me. I vow to continue writing and developing the story idea. But I also vow to enjoy the journey.