A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
Interrupting the Questions
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years questioning myself. Can I fit writing into my busy parenting life? Do I have anything worthwhile to say? Will people want to read what I write? When I made the decision to pursue an MFA, even more questions arose: How can I spend all this money if I am not making any? Will I be remotely as good as the other students? Am I too old for this?
The questions droned on in my conversations with other writers, took up pages in my journal, and kept my mind occupied for months. I tried wholeheartedly to push them away, but they always seemed to linger around the edges. Those doubts and hesitations are powerful.
Then the semester began.
It didn’t take long for me to settle into a schoolwork routine. Each week I must read a book in my genre—women’s nature writing—and write a four- or five-page critical response to it. Every two weeks I create a new creative nonfiction essay, about ten pages. On top of that I have to revise my essays based on the feedback I receive. And now that we are halfway through the semester, it’s time to start thinking about the final twenty-page critical paper.
Oh, and then there’s the rest of my life.
If it seems like a lot of work, it is. If I had nothing else to do each day it would be a breeze, but as it is, the schoolwork now weighs in as heavily as family obligations, with everything else (housework, garden, exercise, etc.) fitting in where it will.
I am currently in the middle of my latest essay and have found myself stuck in its creation. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, but whatever it is, it’s draining me. I sat staring at my screen a few nights ago and began to hear the old familiar questions pop up. Can I do this? Do people really want to read about a walk in the woods with my kid? Maybe I should… But then I stopped myself.
I have ten pages due in three days. And a five-page reading response. I can’t take an evening to write self-deprecating lines in my personal journal, I can’t call a friend to bemoan my status, I can’t put off the work by doing laundry or dishes instead. It makes no sense to belittle the quality of writing that has yet to come fully into existence. What makes sense is sitting down and putting my thoughts on the page. I do not have time to falter.
Doubts and questions can be good, they offer us a chance to step back and reassess. But sometimes they outlive their usefulness. Since entering into this MFA program I have ceased asking those questions because they were pointless questions to begin with. But even more, I’ve been entirely too busy to listen to them. My schoolwork has taught me plenty already. One of the biggest lessons is that when it comes to creative writing, more often than not, the doubts that try to hold us back are truly not worth our time.
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