When I started The Early Draft in 2010, the point was to free myself to write whatever I wanted. It was an exercise in not worrying that the writing was perfect or publication-ready. I wanted to blog because I don’t journal. I always write because I want readers. For a few years, I went great guns with this effort and started to build a following. I developed many mini-essays here, that with a little work, actually became publication-ready. Some of the early draft work that began here ended up in my chapbook, What’s in a Butch’s Purse and Other Humorous Essays. Some of it ended up as posts for lesbian.com. Some of it ended up published on other websites. My blogging took off, and for several months, I had blogs featured on The Huffington Post, particularly in the Gay Voices Section, but also in their over 50 page and their Impact page.
And then it all stopped. Not just the blogging stopped, but for the most part, the writing stopped. You’re wondering why, I suppose. I’m not sure exactly, but I have a few ideas. I had commentators on The Huffington Post rip me a new asshole for an unpopular view about smoking marijuana at outdoor concerts. I didn’t realize my writing could engender so much hatred. The reaction freaked me out. Another paradox: not only was the marijuana blog my most read post (with more than 250 comments, most of them hateful), but it was linked to a national pro-marijuana website and exposed in state after state after state. The article probably got more exposure than anything I have ever written. I became known as the woman with a stick up her ass who didn’t want to inhale someone else’s pot smoke at a concert. Yes, the anti-party chick. That’s me. The buzzkill. The one who would vote against legalization — although that’s not true — I do vote for legalization, just not smoking in public where it travels up my nose. The Huffington audience didn’t catch that part. So, I had my first brush with audience hatred. Ouch.
Nearly a year later, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, incurable, and the morbid oncologist made it sound as if her death was imminent. This also dampened my spirit when it came to writing. My mother is still here, and overall, doing well, but the shock of the diagnosis threw me into a state of “Who the fuck cares about writing, death is the BIG thing…”
One cannot live in a state of morbidity or cowering from the angry mob forever. One must try again to get the writing energy going. This is what writers do. This is what human beings do under many circumstances. We fall, we fail, we try again.
The paradox of my writer’s block being that since 2013, I have had more work published than I ever thought possible (work I wrote prior to the block, of course.) I am not rock star of the literary world, but since 1991, when my first, well, creative-nonfiction-piece-disguised-as-fiction was published in the journal Feminist Studies, and decades went by and nothing was published, and I thought I was a one hit wonder, I now have a relatively (everything is relative) long list of publications. If you would like to see them and maybe read some of the pieces published online, please refer to my publications page on this blog site.
So, I’ve been sending all this stuff out in the last few years, and mostly what I get back are the typical rejections, but beyond those, are the acceptances, even minor recognition: I’ve won three honorable mentions in the last year from New Millennium Magazine (and how I’d love to crack 1st or 2nd or 3rd Prize) and one honorable mention from The Writer’s Workshop of Ashville. I’ve been flattered to have one of my essays chosen to be in the top 10 of the year (a few years back) from Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and more recently, to have a short story (I started nearly 20 years ago) published in Volume 17 of the print journal, Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review, which also has been chosen as a piece to republish online to represent the “Best Of…” Steam Ticket.
Why am I doing all of this humble bragging on myself. I’m sure it’s a form of compensation. I’m trying to tell you (and me) how great I’ve been doing as a writer when truly, in the last year, I’ve written nothing at all. I hope to rectify the situation. I love to write. Sometimes I write (not quite) great things. I do have an audience who enjoys my prose. I am not a brilliant writer, but I’m good, when I’m good, when I actually write something. I am trying to remind myself by all the self-congratulatory crapola expressed above.
It’s been an interesting year too, of seeing friends from the Solstice MFA program also publish books. My good friend, Faye Rapoport DesPres, has published Message From a Blue Jay: Love, Loss, and One Writer’s Journey Home, in 2014, which is a beautifully written, yet very accessible read, about the narrator’s search for an authentic life. If you’d like to read more about it before buying, I wrote a review of it on Connotation Press. However, I would just skip the review and buy the book! It’s fabulous. Faye has also published her essays in numerous literary journals. See her blog at http://www.fayrapoportdespres.com.
Another Solstice friend of mine, and one of my favorite guys in the world, Mike Miner, has published All She Knows, an amazingly beautiful and dark novella in stories that you don’t want to miss and you won’t be able to put down. I have also ordered his newest book, The Immortal Game. I can’t wait to read it. See his author page on Amazon.
Faye and Mike are major talents. You don’t want to miss their stuff.
There are so many books coming from Solstice alumni and students that they are too numerous to mention in a short blog post; however, I want to reassure you this is a talented group of writers. If you have an interest in the program, here is there website: http://www.pmc.edu/mfa-news
While this attempt to get back to The Early Draft turned out to be more about my trying to pat myself on the back for successes in the midst of writer’s block, my on-going goal is to post a blog here once a week, even if it’s just a paragraph, and hopefully, one that is not about writing but that is writing.
You see, I want to make a comeback.
Creating art is a double edged sword sometimes. The production of a really good piece sets a bar that the artist judges their future works by and, “holy crap!”, gets the attention of others. We get comments, good or bad, and it feeds our own inner beast of self doubt. Will anything after this matter or compare? What if I can’t replicate my success, or, God forbid, it sucks as much as that most recent work did. It probably really didn’t “suck”, it was probably very good or even awesome to the outside world, but in our inner mind world, it was horrid. I have an oil painting hanging in our dining room that I made in my first oil painting class. It was an act of rebellion against a painting teacher who said that I spent too much time in a certain genre, and used all the same brushes. Basically, he said I sucked because I liked what I liked and didn’t make pieces that he found interesting. My rebellion? I stepped away from my Sci-Fi interests, and finger painted a giant hibiscus flower. Everyone loves it, and when they learn that it was finger painted, they assume that I must make mind blowing stuff with brushes. I feel at times like I shot myself in the foot when I stuck my middle finger out at a crappy painting teacher. My point is, we have to look at each new piece as if it is our first. There is no bar. Just create for you.. no one else. Damn them if it isn’t published or accepted. It is your own masterpiece that will live on long after your last work is done, simply because you gave it life. I am trying to see my own art this way. Having a one ton trailer of self doubt that I pull around because my nerves are shot and I have tremors now, must not stop the art. Create, good or bad, and you free your soul. Not simple, or easy… but true.
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Kris, not only are you a friend, a reader, and an artist, but you are a fabulous writer. This comment could be it’s own blog post. Thank you so much for reading and for taking the time and care to be this thoughtful and insightful in reaction to what I said. You rock, girl, tremors or not. And feel better.
Cindy, I’m so glad you’re “back!” This is a fascinating meditation on the peculiar nature of the writer’s life, especially the (often finicky) timing between active writing and publication / public recognition. I recently attended a workshop with Alan Heathcock and he never stopped reminding us that, as writers, we are always “writing,” whether we’re taking a hike, listening to music, watching a movie, driving our loved ones to a medical appointment, cuddling with our kitties (or in my case, my pup)… You get the picture. We’re always writing. I’m just happy that you’ll be back to regular postings so the rest of us can get our regular fix of your unique take on the world. Welcome back!
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Ann, thank you so much for reading and for sharing your own insights from the workshop with Alan Heathcock. I believe those things are true. At this point, I feel the way back to myself as a writer is to post here weekly, even if the The Early Draft becomes more of a ROUGH draft. It’s the place for me to restart. Thank you so much again for your encouragement. 🙂
you were never gone. writers are always writing even if it doesn’t hit the page for weeks or years. that moment you looked up and caught her smile, the realization that your mom is amazing, the sweet cats who still keep you up at night. it’s all there, and when you’re ready, it will all come pouring out. because, a writer is always a writer, and you my friend are amazing. 😀
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What a wonderful, kind, and thoughtful comment. Thank you for reading, Suzanne, and for taking the time to comment. It means a lot to me. Kins
You are always so honest in your writing, even about your non-writing, something many of us will hide at all costs, especially from our writing friends. I too am glad to see you return to this blog. I am also glad you took the time you needed, even if it was difficult and felt contradictory to your spirit at times. We writers can confine ourselves in boxes just like anyone else (I must produce, I must do X number of words a day, I must, I must, I must…who am I if I don’t???!!! lol) and burden ourselves with expectations too. Sometimes, the best way to “do” writing, is to top writing for a little bit. I have no idea of if that makes sense, but I know it’s true. I adore you and your writing, Cindy. You know that. Welcome back.
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Hi Erika, yes, all that I must, I must stuff left me exhausted for a long while. I think I’m coming out of it now. I will use this blog to get my feet back into the water, so to speak. Thank you for reading my blog, for understanding (as you always do), for appreciating what I have to say, and for the adoration. I adore you and your writing also, as I hope you know. xoxo
Yay! She’s back! *bookmarks The Early Draft while whistling a happy tune*
Well, Faye, if I can make you whistle a happy tune these days, my job is done. 😉 Thank you for reading and bookmarking. 🙂