Last year, in Slovenia, I used to make sense of my life by making lists. I would start with something I did not like. Then I would rant about it. I do not like that they have no dryers and I have to put my jeans on a radiator and crank up the heat to 100 degrees to dry them within a day! I would write. Seriously, why are there no dryers?! This also makes my jeans become way too stretched out!! Nothing I own fits me anymore.
Then I would force myself to counter it with a thing I liked: I like that my jeans no longer fit me anymore because that means I get to go buy new ones! And I suppose it’s good that no one here is using dryers because we’re using less energy and that’s good for the environment.
Then, sometimes, I would insert them into my blog. Always motivated by some mundane rage, I would make sure to put the positive thing first, Polyanna-style. Oh my gosh dryers are so unnecessary when you think about it, really. So good for the environment to live without them. Even though my jeans have never shrunk to the correct size, at least it makes me feel skinny!
So now, an abbreviated list of things:
I like them.
I do not like that I do not have one.
2. Spring Break.
I like it. I like that it is happening right now.
I do not like that it is only one week.
I like… nothing. Nope, nothing about it.
I do not like: see “I like.”
I like them.
I do not like that they are so far away. Russia, DC, Seattle, Slovenia, Michigan, even Boston seems far away when you’re busy and spend most of your day in the bustling metropolis of Storrs, Conn.
I like finishing what I wrote, and editing it. I like coming up with ideas for it.
I do not like the physical act of typing the first sentence. Feels so heavy. Like deciding to go for a run. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Could always do it tomorrow. Sentence #12 or so? This I like again. It’s like being in the middle of mile 1. You feel like you can run a marathon. Good thing I decided to do this today. Seriously. I’m on fire! Sentence #100 or so: OK, calm down, calm down, it’s cool. Just push, like a page/mile further, and you’ll have done something respectable today. No shame in that. Which leads me to
6. My new writing project.
I like the idea of it. I like that I’m writing it. I like that my little sister has agreed to read my daily pages so that I feel beholden to finish it in a timely manner: to write that bad first draft, to actually do it. I like that I’m finally writing a new project… 14 months after getting my M.F.A.
I do not like that it took me 14 months to do this.
7. The fact that it took me so long to start a new writing project.
I like that it gave me space to think. Challenged me to live my life without wondering which moments I could mine for an image. Gave me freedom for other creative pursuits (essays, translation). Gave me time to gain additional skills: fluency in Slovene, basic competency in Italian. Forced me to take off my writer’s glasses and see the world in a new way… and see the world I did. I lived in the moment, not as a critical observer of my own life, when I was in Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, so many, many places. To have written my own story in invisible, un-recoverable ink.
Was I too young to have gone to an M.F.A. program when I packaged my writing sample at age 21? Professors told me I was, while I was in the midst of applying. I disagreed then. I still do–to an extent. Now, I realize, going to an M.F.A. program at that age is not bad, but you ought to expect your experience there to be slightly different than that of those who are even just a few years older than you. Without the life experience behind you to create characters that seem as true as your peers’, situations that seem as plausible, epiphanies that aren’t all “young 20s-sounding,” as I was once told mine were… you just have to focus on the analysis, the craft, and have faith that your characters will age as you do, your epiphanies will mature along with you, and that it just might take a good long time till you can write seriously, till you find something to say. But then again, maybe that’s the same for everyone, regardless of age, to a certain extent?
Is there something I do not like about waiting this long to start a new writing project? In the end, perhaps not. Pressure’s off. Time to start writing.