Saturday, January 12, 2008

02/05-Confession Tuesday


The big event never happened. At the end of the day we were thanked for participating and winners were announced. It turned out that throughout the day, judges had been evaluating our work. I was devastated. I knew I had held back.

While I wouldn’t have known to call my attitude arrogant, I never forgot how I felt when my girlfriend won a prize and I was empty handed. I continued to write and in the last few years, it seems I am recalling this story readily when I’m being complacent and lazy.

What does this have to do with Confession Tuesday? As many of you know, I’m new to blogging, but I’m not new to online writing communities. It didn’t take long for me to identify active communities and to learn about popular writing prompts. My motivation was twofold: stimulate my creativity and meet peers who would offer supportive and useful feedback.

And therein lies the confession: I easily fell into a routine of writing the exercises I found the easiest to do. I became seduced by the attention traffic brought, and I began to think less of working seriously at the exercises in order to improve my work.

Luckily, I’m no longer nine and it didn’t take all day figuratively for me to realize what I was doing. After remembering this story, I then think of the many of the writers whom I admire and respect. Writers like Audre Lorde, Donald Hall and Walter Mosely talk about writing daily; how every effort isn’t going to be stellar but the actual practice is necessary; that there is something to be gained by being focused and disciplined. Going through the motions won’t get my work where I want it to be.

Luckily, I experienced prompt burnout fairly quickly, too. I’m a lifelong manic about things I get into; I was trying to write almost four to five prompts a week. I’ve thought about my dysfunctional behavior for weeks and knew it was time to fess up and move on. I’ve slowed down on the number of prompts I write, choosing those I’m genuinely interested in and then committing to reworking pieces. Some won’t ever become anything, but I’ve been writing long enough to know that some of these drafts will contain choice lines that could lead to new works that are good.

I tell my nine years plus more than three decade self, don't repeat that day. The sessions matter.


...deb said...

Great essay-confession.

Hearing you tell the 9-year-old's story was both effective and evocative.

I so understand and relate to the manic activity level you speak of adn experience it myself. I hope - as a relatively new writer in year 3 of my normal 5-7-years for every new "hobby" that this time it is more than that; that I have staying power.

I envy people who have been writing as long as you have been. (Oops, this is your confessional, not mine :-) )

susan said...

I actually feel embarrassed about my how long I've been writing. My writing has taken a backseat to many life issues that I have wondered if I would ever live a writer's life.
Now in my 40s, I'm beginning to feel I have staying power and that I can commit to who I am - a writer.

Anonymous said...

What amazes me about your story is how self-aware you were at a tender age. The judges might have let you know what they were up to...but I'm a mother and former teacher, so I'm protective of young ones.

I have been doing these prompts since November, and today I've finally had it. Your remarks here have only bolstered what I've been experiencing.I appreciate your honesty- it actually makes me feel like I know you better. :)

Don't feel embarassed about how long you've been writing, please. I'm 47! Writing has taken a back burner in my life, because of low self confidence. I've always written, but never thought I was worth anything. Now I don't give a damn. If I want to write, I'll write. If I'm not trendy or experimental, so be it.

Goodnight, Mom said...


What a great essay. I can totally relate to you as a nine year old. You made me think of so many things that I "coulda, shoulda, woulda" done better.

I really enjoyed reading this.


January said...

It's too bad we can't go back to our younger selves and make it right. So all we can do is move forward.

I have a similar experience, but for me it was public speaking and Toastmasters. Ugh.

January said...

Oh, and I like the new look. Very nice.

susan said...

Hi January,

Toastmasters, too funny. I was VP of Ed for my corporate chapter. Thanks for coming by and glad to hear you like the new look.

charmaine said...

Thanks for the invitation to read you. I've enjoyed what I've seen so far, and will come back again and again.

About confessions...I have to learn how to confess without embarassing my folks. I'm new to internet writing myself and I have to make an effort to remember that I'm writing for a broader audience than usual.

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

susan -- i love how you used story to relay your confession. and before i get to the meat of what touched me, i don't want to forget to congratulate you on the bravery of saying "prompt burn-out" out loud. (i have also decided i don't have to do the same prompts at the same site every week.)

what moved me most about your confession was this: "I easily fell into a routine of writing the exercises I found the easiest to do. I became seduced by the attention traffic brought, and I began to think less of working seriously at the exercises in order to improve my work." that's where i am. remembering that while blogging is a social activity, my purpose is to challenge myself to work differently.

p.s. another confession: my first writing workshop was when i was in fifth grade i think. i'd won a contest based on my story about a $100 bill with a talking ben franklin on it.

Rethabile said...

I think this kind of thing happens to a lot of us. Thanks for sharing.

janetleigh said...

I so admire the stamina and drive you have in reaching your goals as writer, Susan. You, and so many others who frequent your blog and communities like Poets Who Blog are powerhouses. I'm so burned out that I doubt I've left a trail of ashes. It's comforting to know I'm not alone in this state of mind. We just need to remember that this, too, shall pass. LOL