Now that my first year at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program is complete, I'm taking a look at what I've written and what might be interesting to send out. I was surprised to see I had gathered over 100 pages of creative work since last September, comprised of 5 new essays, a revision of an older piece, and the first 30 pages of a book-length project.
Add to that two more pieces I had workshopped last August and I have 7 pieces that could be revised and sent out into the world to find proper homes at journals. One is ready now after some revision this weekend, one I know could be ready to go after a brief revision this week. The other five will mostly be exercises in getting out of my own way, to let the stories tell themselves instead of over-explaining them.
This has been my problem all along, and no great surprise to those who know me - I tend to over-think, over-explain, and in general over-correct my pieces until they're sort of like over-worked pie crust, crumbly, hard, and generally not very tasty to consume.
In an effort to be clear and thorough, I end up sounding distant and pedantic. The last piece I wrote, though, was better, lighter in texture and I'm trying to learn from that experience, letting my imagination take me where it wants to go next without wondering much about what a reader might need to follow along. The question is still there, but answered only in the sparest way. A hint, a name, a detail, but no lengthy exposition. I'm hoping that I can meld this lightness with lyricism while not overworking the text in the process. I like descriptive passages, the feel of them, the way they create an overall feeling. But weaving that in with the lightness of simple imagined narrative will be the next thing to master.
I've been nervous to look at my work from the past year, imagining that there's very little to speak of. There's work to be done, but that's okay, because there's substance in the 100 pages laying on my cedar chest now. I didn't imagine or hope that I had 100 pages to work with. It's there. Waiting and I even have a few ideas on how to revise the pieces.
Thanks to a couple of friends in the RWW program I also have a plan for sending out submissions, a nice deliberate plan instead of the haphazard way I've been sending stuff out previously. The Plan entails detailed record-keeping and research, two things that keep my nervous mind at bay while I get things done.
In the meantime, my chapbook waits to be printed this week and the CD tracks finalized. There's a very slim but distinct possibility that I'll have a few copies available on Friday. Later this month, I'll have a chapbook release nested nicely inside a jam session with my bestest musical friends.
Oh, and there's a gig on Saturday to launch the CD of one of my bestest musical friends where I get to be a Narrator on stage and everything.
So life is good now and I'm grateful, even when I'm tired and nervous about life. I used to worry that I worry, but I'm beginning to understand, as geeks are wont to say, that's just the way I roll.