I’m a shy person, snuggling happy in the realm of my comfort zone without finding many reasons to break out and socialize with people I do not know. Sometimes, I don’t even break out for the people I do know. I like my space quiet, just for me, where I can focus on my thoughts and enjoy numerous amounts of silence. However, this all changed once I entered my MFA program. I went from a person that only drank Mountain Dew and Grapefruit juice to someone who drinks water, Mountain Dew and Grapefruit juice (for those who are concerned I do drink other things but those are my top choices). So why the sudden addition of water? Because I’m talking. A lot! Networking, socializing, building relationships, attending social gatherings and forming connections. Selling myself, my ideas, my work. Short stories, flash fiction and novels OH MY!This morning I asked my mom for a good word for G that applies to any writer. I had graduation, something I am very excited about but not too inspired to write about. The first word to pop into her head: Grind-because that’s all you writers do. You grind out stories and essays even finding a job is all part of the writers grind. And yes, yes it is. I know what I want, I’ve never questioned that. I want a big house, one story houses make me nervous because tornadoes and earthquakes (both I’ve experienced) and just being on one flat floor makes me feel trapped and having no options. Just sit there. Apartments and hotels, I’m fine as long as I’m not on the first floor because I’m weird. So, I need to be off the ground. That requires more money which I will get from my job right? No, not really because I also want a dog, I want Netflix AND Hulu, I want a nice, flat screen television, I want video games, I want the next PSinsert number here, journals, highlighters, pencils, erasures, planners, binders and an extensive library of books. So this is what my grind looks like:
- I have my BA, MA and working on my MFA all in creative writing. I’m in one of those positions where I am fortunate enough to be able to say that my job is being a student. My parents (both grinders to the core) have given me a life that I’m pretty sure I will not be able to give my own children (should I decide to have any). To show them my gratitude, I’m working as hard as I can to capture as many opportunities that are offered to me through the schools I’ve attended, especially my current one. I’m speaking up more in workshop, not only to help my fellows with their work but to see if I’m wording my critiques the right way. Is what I’m saying helpful or, once I’ve finished speaking, is the student looking at me dazed and confused? I’m also participating in student readings, something I’ve never done in the past because I hate the sound of my voice in a microphone (I have a nasally voice which people love to tease me about).
- Critiquing: I’m reading the stories of my friends, improving my critiquing abilities. I read for a literary magazine during their competition season to improve my critiquing abilities. I write, read, edit, write, revise and critique my own work because I can’t settle on just wanting to be a publicist. I need options so why can’t being an editor be one of them? I’m applying for volunteer jobs that hopefully won’t hinder my ability to turn my work in on time.
- Social Media: Yeah, I want to be a publicist and what better way to reach people then through social media? I received my first every graduate assistantship at the school I’m attending now, running their Pinterest and Instagram pages! Check them out and follow! Next semester, my job responsibilities will increase adding to my resume!!!!!
- Goals: I love me some deadlines (foreshadowing to Saturday’s post) so why not give my goals deadlines? One of my goals is to write two short stories every month (except November and May in which I write one short story because of school). Sometimes this includes an extensive revision but so far its me generating new work for my collection every month with some flash fiction pieces in between. Though challenging, I have never been so satisfied with what I’m doing, spending long hours in the office writing away. When I type the final word of the second story, the feeling is so gratifying. Then, I copy and paste the two new stories into my master document to see how many pages I have because PAGE COUNT! Just love seeing that go up.
- Writers Conferences: At first I would see a group advertising their writers conference and shrink away because grmmmm people. Ew socialization. Advertising myself? Why when I have a perfectly comfortable bed complete with pillows and blankets! Now I’m swallowing my social anxiety and thrusting myself into the world, plus I find the writers’ conferences to be really enjoyable. You meet fellow writers, practice your pitches, meet editors and agents, free stuff, and attend panel discussions some of which your past creative writing teachers may be a part of. Plus, FREE STUFF!!!! I have business cards ready, pitches, stories, special binder and bag all ready for my writers’ conference spree this summer! Bring it.
- Blogging: At first I was hesitant to start a blog. What would I write about? Why would anyone find what I have to say interesting? My first post was about the first conference I went to, then the following posts surrounded me sharing bits and pieces of stories in progress. Then, my grind began. I started sending out several of those stories to be critiqued in preparation for publication. One of their rules: don’t send stories that appear on other sites INCLUDING BLOGS. Trashed that idea. As I remade myself into this semi-less antisocial writer, I also remade my blog. Why post my stories when I can post about my journey? Eventually, publishing houses and literary magazines will see my creative work so why not show them the steps I’ve taken in order to gain the confidence to submit to them? It also gives me the opportunity to do some self reflection. What holds me back as a writer? What pushes me forward? Do other people in this blogging community have the same questions I do? How are they making it all work?
And finally, my proudest achievement and something that illustrates my grind the most, I give you this image, courtesy of Duotrope! Above is the short list of places my work is under consideration. That’s right, I’m submitting more than ever! I’ve finally reached that point where the grind is really real. No longer am I writing stories, thinking about if they are publishable or not then putting them aside for later. Instead, I’m sending them out! Letting other people tell me if they are publishable or not. One of my workshop leaders said that if a piece gets rejected ten times then it needs to be revised. So far that has not happened yet but now it is definitely a possibility. Fingers crossed several of those pending responses (different pieces to different places) will turn into an accepted! My friends always tell me I’m driven. I work hard, sometimes to the point where I overwork myself which is never good for my body. But, I work hard because that is how I was raised. I have several dreams and I know what it takes to accomplish those dreams. Not only do I want to be a writer but I also want to give lectures at conferences, be a writer in residence, be an editor or publicist (still undecided it changes everyday) at a publishing company, read and critique stories through Writers’ Digest’s 2nd draft critique services, perhaps be a teacher at my low-residency program. So if I’m not speaking to you or haven’t come out of my office in a couple of weeks its not because I don’t like you. I’m working. After all, the writers’ life is a constant grind.