Saturday, July 16, 2011

When the Past Catches Up With You

I have been uncharacteristically quiet on my blog lately. I'm not saying that for your benefit, but for my own. I keep sensing that I should be writing, but other things are coming first in my life. Unfortunately, that goes for my fiction as well as my ramblings.

Our home life is upside down lately as we prepare to move to a new house in the metro area. Buying a house, selling a house, boxing and sorting and organizing our mountain of junk, and preparing for a new school year have taken over my creative energy. And, in typical Kristi fashion, no matter how much planning I do ahead of time, timelines change drastically. In this case we are closing on the new house the same week we originally had set as the target for getting the old one on the market, and doing it without a buyer on our current house. So there is also a rush job to get our existing house spit-shined and tuned up for buyers. We hadn't planned on stumbling across the new house, complete with 99% of our wish list and at a price we couldn't argue with, when we did.

Note: this is why I'm not a plotter. I never know when that perfect plot point is going to surface from the blackhole of my brain and I just frustrate myself by wasting time creating detailed plans that I know will change.

In the middle of this chaos, we made a trip to my mom's house. She is in the middle of a similar clean-out/re-org process as she and her fiancé prepare to combine two households. She presented me with a box of mementos that I had left when I went away to college. Sifting through that box was quite the memory trip. It was full of photos and scrap books and cards and school papers.
I learned a few things about myself that I had forgotten, things that directly relate to how I write and how I feel about my writing. The first thing I noticed was how many certificates I had. I kept everything--every perfect attendance award, every science fair medal, every English department award. And there are a lot in that box. I'm not saying that to show off my pre-college mental prowess. But all of the official, foil-embossed recognition was clearly important to me. So important that I have a whole scrapbook full of little besides merit awards.

When I contrast that to my college days, my daytime career, and my writing work, there is a marked contrast. Not that I'm a slouch or lazy or an underachiever. But I used to get more awards in a single year of high school than I've probably gotten in the seventeen years since I graduated. That has been an eye opener. It also might help explain how my views of myself changed in college and beyond (Did I ever mention I was once pre-med? Note I'm not a doctor. Amazing how humbling getting a few C's can be for the ol' ego...)
It has also been a struggle in my writing because I did not just breeze into in and start collecting awards. I have had to come to grips with the fact that my writing wasn't perfect. Some of what I have written might actually suck. Badly. I also have to learn to handle the subjectivity of the field. On one hand, contest results and feedback is colored by personal preferences of the judge, agent, or editor. On the other hand, sometimes their feedback isn't just personal preference but a reflection of a weakness in my skillset.
It's not them, it's me.

It kills part of me to admit that--the part of me with that filled that scrapbook full of tangible evidence of someone's approval. But the (slightly) more grown-up part knows that I should not quit writing because I don't win contests. My writing has improved and continues to improve. And I will be much prouder of my eventual accomplishments for having worked so hard to achieve them (thinking optimistically here).
The other thing that I learned (or rather, re-learned) about myself was a lot more fun and a lot less self-reflective. I have been plotting romance novels in my head for years. Decades actually. Plotting as I try to fall asleep. Plotting while I drive. But I didn't think that I'd ever written any of the ideas down until NaNoWriMo of 2007.

I was wrong.

Tucked away in my treasure box was a spiral notebook with half a dozen plot ideas. I had character notes, settings, even the beginnings of scenes. Amusingly, the style of those notes is virtually identical to my more recent idea notebooks. And every one of them is a romance. I guess I really was one of those writers who started young. But somehow life and college and jobs and a million other excuses got in the way. Excuses like moving to new houses.

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