In yoga classes, you’re often given a word to focus on as you practice. A meditation, a center for your mind. I thought I’d try that today with this post, since I like having parameters to work with. And though, in yoga, the word is usually something positive, an idea to strive towards (“balance” or “play” for example), the word I’m thinking of is just one I’d like to consider for its role in my life, and its relationship to me for better and worse.
The word is: impatience.
Many of my friends (and me too) are dealing with the difficulties of life after an MFA program. (And if you think we’re alone, read this). One of the main problems is that you go from a world of time, focus, and support to a world in which you have at best a couple of hours a day to spend on what you consider your life’s work. (And if you think I’m exaggerating the cultural force of this phenomenon, read this). This is frustrating, and perhaps the most frustrating thing about it is the Catch 22-ishness of the situation: if only you had more time and money (or, well, time bought by money) you’d be able to finish writing your first book. But you can’t get that time and money (in the form of a decent teaching job or most of the better residencies or, if you’re really lucky, a book advance) unless you finish your book and publish it first.
Ha ha! Great joke, world!
I’ve already been through most of the permutations of despair associated with this situation, and have settled into a routine where I write in the mornings and on the weekends, and then spend most of my day working a (luckily well-paid) 9-5 job. It’s not ideal, but it’s working. And yet.
And yet. I still struggle with feelings of impatience related to my writing, and find myself frequently in the position of questioning whether I should just take advantage of the momentum from those feelings (can impatience be a good thing?) or try and talk myself down. After all, writing is not a race. It’s a conversation with ideas, situations, and characters. It’s one long, lived dream. But I do want to eventually finish my novel, and write the other novels I’ve been thinking about. I want to revise some stories. I want to have more time to work on the graphic novel I’ve been mulling and sketching for (remind me, gentle readers, to someday post some character sketches).
Dave and I talked last night over dinner about how both of us has been working ourselves a little close to the bone lately. We have 9-5 jobs, and then we have these immense projects that consume what would be, for normal people, our resting hours. Viewed from the outside, our lives could look a little bit unhealthy. But do you know what we decided? To just say screw it. These are important things, and we think that – through hard work brought on in part by a little impatience – we might actually finish them. So (to put my finger on the cultural button of this idea) we are both going to continue letting ourselves lean in to our impatience. Or should I say ambition? Our goals, the worlds we want to live in.
Let us hope this doesn’t result in ulcers.