I’m not alone in this, I keep telling myself. People take breathers from their creative projects all the time, and come back refreshed and recharged. Right?
If I avoid exercise for six weeks, my body does not pick up where it left off. Instead it lets me know how unhappy it is with me through aches, pains and general immobility. My muse is giving me the same treatment.
On Saturday I started back in on my major work-in-progress–a travel memoir–after six weeks away from it. I didn’t plan for that absence, but my last MFA packet was due at the end of May, and I will confess that during the weeks following that packet and leading up to my latest MFA residency, I occupied myself with other projects. Then, of course, came the residency itself and its ten days of intensity, followed by a few days R&R on the Maine coast with my wife. Once back in DC, of course, my employer was naturally eager to engage my services once again. Just like that, six weeks gone.
My subconscious kept working on my WIP during that time, so I know where I need to go with the work. And when I sit down to actually write, words come out, and I suspect some of them aren’t that bad. But I still feel detached from the work, as if it isn’t truly mine. Does that make sense?
I know, I know. Write a little each day. Stay connected with your project. I read the craft books, devour the blogs, listen to my Vermont College of Fine Arts instructors. But sometimes life happens.
I don’t really have any choice but to keep plugging away. My first packet of this semester is due Thursday, July 26th. I landed my dream MFA advisor this semester, so I want to show her what I’m capable of, but the idea of producing 30 top-quality pages in 13 days is daunting. Produce 30 first-draft pages? Sure. But I know how I write, and I’ll need to produce 60 in the first draft to get to 30 I’m willing to share.
If anyone has any advice on how to fully re-engage with your WIP after a long absence–beyond forcing yourself to do so, which I am doing out of necessity–I’d love to hear it. Or if you just want to say, “There, there, Patrick, everything will be okay and she’ll love your pages,” that’s okay as well!
ADDENDUM, JULY 17, 7:00 PM ET: Wow. I cannot begin to express in words how much I value the community of creatives The Artist’s Road allows me to connect with. I am so grateful for everyone’s support, encouragement, and suggestions in the comments below. Thank you.