With three quarters of the year behind me, I’m not where I thought I’d be. My hand-written goal sheet hangs high above my head, taunting me from its spot on my bulletin board. Two out of eight accomplished. One failed.
I’ve tried on all sorts of metaphors to convince myself I’m further along than I realize. This time last week, the garden I’ve nurtured for nearly a year lay barren save for a row of diseased lima beans and an overflowing box of sweet potato vines. ’Tis the season in North Florida.
Besides pulling weeds and dead things from the dirt, I’ve been killing my darlings on the page, or at least putting them in the corner until they behave. (Hat tip to @KarieWrites for that new twist on Stephen King’s wisdom.) Anything that doesn’t work, goes. Favorite sentence. First paragraph. Protagonist. Point of view. It’s all gone.
Whereas this time next month I know I’ll be harvesting kale, there’s no telling when I can expect to produce a viable manuscript. In most areas of life, I’m used to reaping what I sow. Practicing piano 30 minutes each day culminated in a Beethoven Sonata performance from memory. Going to class and studying earned me straight As in college. In my brief stint as a freelance writer in my twenties, I kept pitching ideas and landed an article in my goal publication. But the older I get, the less linear life becomes.
Some seeds never sprout. Others self-sow and poke through a tangle of weeds. Maybe the logical, finiteness of goals is too harsh to impose on creativity. Maybe it’s time to consider failure as feedback on my way to wherever I’m going, whatever I’m growing.
They say writing requires an almost foolish drive to keep moving forward in the face of rejection, like laboring all day over a plot of dirt that may or may not turn green. Like plowing forward in the search for love despite calloused hands from the last disappointment.
I’m there. In the dirt. Sweat-drenched, filthy, and exhausted from effort, with a glimmer of hope that my words will take root.
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Last Updated September 26, 2019