The New Normal

I am officially this close to finishing the school year. I can taste summer. I can sense it like a coming storm, except instead of sleet and hail, this storm will rain down sunshine and road trips and deleting the alarm set for 5:00 a.m. from my phone. I will miss my students like crazy, of course, and not seeing them everyday will feel like something very big and important is missing, but that's usually tempered by the fact that they run out of school on the last day like this:

The end of a school year tends to make me all kinds of nostalgic. I've been thinking a lot about how life is different now compared to the beginning of the year. Since my goals for writing are basically the same as my goals for life in general, the changes have arranged my world into something completely new. And it's different in many expected ways, but it's also surprisingly the same. I swear I haven't watched that many extreme makeover-type TV shows, but for some reason that seems like the most apt metaphor. It's like they say about people who drastically change their appearance (plastic surgery, losing weight, etc): Just because you've changed on the outside, doesn't mean anything is different inside. I think that's also true of writing. You advance through various stages of your career and accomplish new things, but you still have the baggage you toted around when you first started out. The doubt, the self-esteem issues, the worry. Getting an agent, getting published--it can't change those things (at least not without effort). The writing life has gotten easier in some ways. My mind is no longer preoccupied with querying. It's amazing how much mental energy that consumed (but, I also kind of enjoyed the concreteness of the query/wait/write cycle. I always felt like I was advancing toward my goals). Also, my mind is able to imagine a greater future for my writing beyond the pursuit of an agent. There used to be this wall up in my mind that stopped me from thinking about anything beyond that.

That wall is down now, but with it comes an entire new set of anxieties and fears. Now, the future is a big, wide-open place where anything could happen to me or my books. It's so very easy to be self-defeating and dismissive. It's oddly easier than ever to question the validity and worth of what I'm offering. I know this is backward. It's also something I've got to fight because it's poison.  For me, the treatment for this kind of thing is two-fold: 

1) control your own thoughts It's super easy for me to imagine the worst-case scenarios and call it "being realistic." I saw this quote recently, and it struck home, not because I've had many people undermine my dreams in the name of realism, but because I have, and still do all the time. 

2) focus on the work If I control only what I can control (that being the writing), and remind myself constantly that I can't control all of these various hypotheticals, my brain is happier.