Thursday, September 27, 2012

The End of Hiding Out

Almost two years ago to the day I received a call inviting me to join the Pacific University MFA program.

Two years. It's been both a blink of the eye and a lifetime ago. I remember getting the call and thinking life was about to get crazy, change drastically. I remember thinking that two years, 80 books read, a book written, five residencies seemed like an eternity away.

And here it is. Almost done. I've only one book left to read. In six week, my thesis will be signed off on and off to the binders. I will have plane tickets to my last residency, where I'll walk through the Portland Airport one last time, check into the hotel by the ocean one last time, see my amazing friends and writers and faculty members one last time.

It all makes me feel sad and panicky inside - like something truly fantastic is coming to an end.

What will life be like after?

I realized this week that I've used this program in exactly the way I intended to - as an escape from the publishing world for a little while. Funny, you'd think a writing program would put you more in the publishing world. For some, it has. For some who have only written as a hobby, it has opened their eyes to things they knew little about before: query letters and agents and submissions and publishing stats.

For me, I knew all of that. Been burned out by it. Tired by it. Frustrated by it. Disillusioned. There is, at the beginning of a writing career, a dream. Reality is, as it always is, harsher. Still great, but great in different ways than you expect, and not as great in ways you never saw coming.

I needed to get out of that. Needed to stop thinking about publishing and statistics and competition so much and think again about writing.  In a really tough time in my life, I needed to remember why I do this, and give myself a jump start into a new phase.

So I hid out in the program, and poured myself into writing... just writing. Falling in love with writing again. With stories and characters and ideas and the feel of the words on the page. It was hard. Sometimes I didn't love it as much as I thought I should. Growth is like that. Growing pains are... well... painful.

But I've realized lately, especially as I think of this coming to an end, that I love writing like breathing. It has become every fiber of me. It is what I most want to be doing. When I'm not doing it, I wish I was. When I hate it, I still love it. When I am struggling to get it right, it's because I love it so much that I struggle.

Each story I send to my advisor I say, "I really want to get this one right. This one's important to me." And I expect him to write back and say, "You say that about all of them." But he doesn't, and I suspect that's because he feels that too - that every story is important to get right. Every story hits close to home in some way. Every character is part of your heart in some way and deserves a story worthy of them.

And now... now the end is just about here. And it's time to leave the cocoon I've made for myself. Time to get back into reading blogs and articles about publishing and find out what's going on in the world again. It is an entirely different publishing world than I knew two years ago. Big publishers are less in favor, ebooks are sky-rocketing, self-publishing is much more acceptable a path to take, and authors seem to be grabbing control of their destiny more than ever. It boggles my mind. There is so much new to learn - more decisions to make in terms of what I want to do with my writing.

So on that note, dear bloggers, tell me what I've missed. What blogs should I be reading? What news should I know? What are YOU thinking of this evolving world of publishing?