I don’t know what kind of writing I want to do anymore, I decide while punching holes in a copy of my dissertation so I can put it in a 3-ring binder. This is a familiar ritual, where I first gather up work I’ve shunned and then revise it and submit it for publication. The poetry section of my dissertation is, itself, yet another incarnation of a manuscript I first submitted to contests three years ago before deciding I was only wasting reading fees. Following the poetry is a plus-sized article manuscript, which, even flipping through six pages at a time to hole punch, still causes my heartbeat to rise anxiously. (And let me acknowledge now, since it wasn’t really appropriate to fit into my actual dissertation acknowledgments, that there is no way I could have finished that unholy monster of an article without the gentle loving kindness of my dear friend clonazepam, aka generic Klonopin, the grad student’s little helper.)
In the months since I defended my dissertation, I haven’t looked at it save to upload a file to the graduate school or to send a copy to my mother who asked sweetly to read it or to a friend who was formatting her own diss. Instead, my job now relatively secure until I go up for tenure, I have plunged into the luxurious depths of downloading to my Kindle and gobbling up fantasy novels with surprising speed–or at least a speed I was never able to reach with my grad school readings. All five of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, devoured like so much scorched horse flesh by a black-scaled rebel of a dragon. The Hunger Games trilogy, raced through as if my life depended upon it. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, read awkwardly while feeling out of place (I’m a life-long awkward adolescent). The Long Walk—my first Steven King novel!—plodded through anxiously, to the delirious, unforgiving end. And now I’m neck-deep in the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, which tastes, I imagine, like the sugary fake blood favored in Hollywood.
Besides learning that Steven King is a better writer than I’d imagined (did my fancy creative writing schooling make me snobby? you betcha!), I’ve also been reminded why I first wanted to be a writer—because I love reading so doggone much—and the books that I first fell in love with weren’t the rarefied poetry books I’ve since aspired to write but rather speculative fiction and what is now called young adult fiction. As disappointed as I am with A Dance with Dragons*, I rather like George R.R. Martin’s argument that fantasy, science fiction, and horror are all cut from the same cloth, that they are “flavors, if you will, of imaginative fiction, romantic fiction—the great romantic tradition as opposed to realistic tradition in literature.” [And thus the writing of this post took a two-day hiatus so that I could scour all of Martin’s recent interviews on the web to find that exact quote—even if I’m no longer exactly sure why I needed to quote him in the first place. The grad student dies hard.]
And all that is preface to say that in the past few weeks, I’ve toyed with returning to blogging, but wondered what I should blog about—what I watch on TV, which I’ve come to love the way I also love books and find newly valuable? my efforts to teach myself to cook like an adult? My attempts to get to know the city I’ve lived in for a year but sequestered myself away from while working on the dreaded dissertation? the original project I founded this particular dissertation for, my explorations of Mobile and Alabama history?
I’ve also considered taking up fiction. I’ve had a couple of fiction workshops (as a product of the MFA and creative writing PhD system, I feel compelled to list my bona fides however unfide those bonas might be). I have a twinkling towards young adult fiction, and I’ve gone so far as to purchase a special notebook to put my ideas in. (So far, blank!)
On another screen, I have a half-written guest review of a film for the terrific feminist film blog Bitch Flicks. And by half-written, I only mean the scattered notes I jotted down immediately after viewing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button a whole week ago but have since neglected.
Ah, and I’ve just now taken an hour’s detour to write a comment on a post at The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s “On Hiring” blog. (An hour? For a comment? Seriously?) Which is to say, I’m mightily distracted by all the kinds of writing I’m interested in, and worry (always worry) about my ability to stick long enough with any one kind to produce anything at all. Other evidence being this very post, which began as a distraction from the poetry manuscript and from which I’ve been distracted by emails to writing groups and blog comments.
It’s a right royal mess, it is—both this this post and my larger predicament. Is it even a predicament? Am I troubled by having too many interests? Do I wander off to a new project as soon as the current one gets difficult? Is there some kind of attention disorder going on? It’s certainly a predicament in as much as I must publish to get tenure, and if I don’t get tenure, I must publish so I can be competitive for a new job. It’s not even publish or perish. It’s publish or publish!
I guess I’d best post this rambling mess before I take another two-day break and decide to double its structureless length for no apparent reason. It’s not like I’ve got any conclusions. (I should probably also unlink the blog from facebook because I shouldn’t subject facebook to every unaccountable thought I have, but I still need to commit to something, to write something, even if its random, messy blog posts.)
*That’s another post, surely, but perhaps I should say I’m disappointed with it in the way that only someone who’s been enthralled by the series and remains dedicated to it can be “disappointed,” which is to say, I can see Martin working hard here, where the early novels seemed effortlessly magical.