Thursday, August 6, 2015

Looking Back to Augusts Past

Summer begins to fade into autumn, like it does every year. Living in San Diego buffers me from this reality, somewhat. It is easy to let the sunny days slide away, one after another, sure that they will continue in an unabated stream. And yet, the days do grow shorter, and time is, in fact, passing.

Such are the thoughts I have, teetering on the edge of another August. August for me marks a turning point in the year. Suddenly my mind is racing to catch up with the reality that, yes, another year is passing without anything I can do to stop it (or speed it up, as the case may be). Summer days seems unbearably precious, knowing that the 5 PM darkness is coming up. And it’s far, far too easy to look back at previous Augusts and despair over how little progress I’ve made since then.

Let’s consider. Last August, I was searching for a job to replace my forfeited Navy career. I had abundant free time, and was using that to the best of my ability. I was coming out of a July with record-high wordcounts, churning out words faster than I ever had before. I was excited by my new project (novel 7) and full of hopes for #PitchWars. And then, by the end of the month, I had found that new day job, my wordcounts had plunged, and I had to admit that novel 7 was a slight creature that might never be marketable for traditional publishing. Still, I felt close. I felt more like a real writer than ever. Would I have believed that, a year later, I would be staring down 100 rejections for novel 7, pushing myself to finish novel 8’s first draft, contemplating another #PitchWars submission for novel 6, and honestly no closer to “making it” than before?

Two years ago, it was August 2013, and I was mired in a low period. I didn’t update my blog for months, I wrote almost nothing, and after setting a goal to finish novel 6’s first draft in July, I was still months away from achieving that. I was caught up in the real life of the Navy and moving in with my boyfriend and struggling to believe in myself. Imagine how much worse would my low period have been if I could have seen that, 2 years in the future, I would still be fighting with novel 6, without even a sure answer about what needs to be fixed after several drafts and beta reads and about 50 rejections.

Even further back, I find this post in August 2012 reaffirming—trying to convince myself—that I will continue, despite the challenges. I reference this post about what might happen if I never get anywhere with my work. It includes the closing thought “I still have a few years yet before I abandon this dream, but lord how I hope I don’t have to!” Reading that now, when it has been a few years and I still am plagued by the doubts and fears about wasting my time, well, it’s painful, honestly. Knowing that since then I have written THREE new manuscripts and yet still don’t seem to have the keys to writing one that works. Not yet.

In the waning summer of 2011, I was writing about writer’s block and my embarrassment at my lack of writerly accomplishments. I vowed to be better, to do better. And yet, four years later, I still haven’t mastered the art of writing consistently (although there has been a vast improvement). The improvements I have made have not translated into any tangible benefits except an ever-growing pile of words without readers.

Even back in 2010, when this blog was barely started, August was a time of posts about writer's block. That was the month I finished the first draft of novel 1, and yet still, only a few weeks later, I could not manage to write a thing!

Reading through these old August musings, I am struck by one thought above all. No matter how often I get down, no matter how frustrating it is or how little the words flow, I have not given up. And I won't give up. Writing is a part of me, for better or for worse. And while it is easy to despair over the lack of progress I have made, that would be a shame, because I have accomplished a lot. I've written hundreds of blog posts. I've met and friended other writers. I've written hundreds of thousands of words, sent hundred of queries, applied to contests, published on Wattpad, created a video series, I have written books! It's not nothing.

A few weeks ago, I was musing about the future to my boyfriend, and I posited that five years from now I could not really predict anything about my life. Even whether I would still be writing, given that another five years of rejection sounds almost impossible to overcome. I asked him, "Do you think I'll ever stop writing?" He did not hesitate a second. "No." He knows me better than anyone, and I think he has the right of it. Writing is in me, it has been for literally as long as I can remember, and while it may ebb and flow, I doubt it will ever leave me.

So take that, August doldrums! I am not defeated yet!