In-between projects

*I’m doing all of the parts of the business of being a writer that I don’t really like.*

I’ve been seriously grumpy lately. There are many reasons for my grumpiness, but one of the main culprits is that I haven’t been writing as much as I want to. Yes, I write a column and articles for Women in Higher Education. Yes, I wrote a lecture on the artifacts of white supremacy that I gave at the College of Charleston. Yes, I wrote up a statement about why you should all move to Florida like I did.

And yet, I feel like I’m still writing less than I want to.

What occurred to me today is that I’m writing less because I’m currently stuck in-between two projects. Months ago, I finished all the writing I had to complete for my forthcoming Grace Period (Killing the Buddha press), a collection of essays about my slow transition out of academia, the loss of dreams, and the long process of  learning how to manage where I happened to land. I’ve only been editing what needs to be edited. Now, the soon-to-be book is in the hands of my excellent copy editor while I worry about everything else that needs to be finished and my strategies for book promotion. (more…)

On Quitting

*Quitting is not inherently a failure.*

It all started with a parenting newsletter in my inbox. This particular newsletter focused upon what to do when your kids want to quit an activity, sport, or extracurricular. Like much of the advice on quitting, the newsletter cheerfully suggested that you shouldn’t let your child quit, even when their misery appeared in slumped shoulders and frowns on face. Instead, parents, you should encourage your child to stick around, in spite of their misery. Quitting, it seemed from the newsletter, could only be read as failure. And the implication was that parents surely don’t want their kids to be quitters or failures.

As I read the newsletter’s parenting advice, I got angrier and angrier. I promptly deleted the email and almost unsubscribed (is that quitting?). I couldn’t quite pinpoint what made me so angry. Then, it occurred to me that the assumptions about quitting and failure bothered me. The newsletter assumed that quitting was somehow bad and sticking around was somehow good. Sticking around signaled success, but quitting could only be failure. This is a terrible way to imagine quitting, but it’s a remarkably common one.

People equate failure with quitting all the time, and I really hate when they do because quitting isn’t inherently a failure. Quitting is but one choice out of many. We make many, many choices about our lives each day, but quitting is one choice that is consistently presented as a type of failure.

Claiming that quitting is only failure misses the fact that quitting can be so much more. Quitting has many possibilities. (more…)

Boom project

*I’m aiming for the boom, and I’m hoping they can hear the echoes.*

Over a year and a month ago, a typo in a tweet that turned into something unexpected. In the airport waiting for a plane, I decided to tweet a bit about my short stint as a visiting writer at Elizabethtown college to process what had happened. But mostly, to process what I had said to students who asked me for writing advice. I can’t remember if I was typing quickly on my phone or if I was blissfully careless on my laptop. Either way, I ended up typing “boom” instead of “book.” That typo, the “m” rather than the “k,” became significant. At first, I didn’t realize my mistake. A couple of  lovely folks on Twitter tweeted at me to ask what a “boom project” was, and I reread my tweet and found the error. One person wondered if “boom project” was a new publishing term that they hadn’t heard of yet. No, it was just a mistake. Or was it?

I had been tweeting about a confession I made to a group of students (and two of their professors). In the Q & A in a class, a student asked me about how I write books and what new projects I was working on. Before I could stop myself, I admitted that book projects still frighten the bejesus out of me. The students looked at me and each other with varying levels of bewilderment and a nervous chuckle or two. I kept talking when I probably should have stopped. I wanted to be honest, so I explained that long projects, like books, still frighten (read panic) me. This fear remained strong, even though I’ve already written two books. Books are a long commitment for a writer, and long commitments often appear scary at the outset because who knows how they’ll actually turn out. Boom or bust. Luckily, I didn’t say the previous lines aloud. (more…)

Albums 21: Jesus Freak

Jesus Freak

Richard Newton

 

I wanted this essay to be about a different album, Pearl Jam’s superior sophomore effort, Vs. (1993), Zach Braff’s masterful Garden State soundtrack (2004), or Metallica’s beautifully risky S&M (1999). The playlist in my head shuffled through all of these, but none of them stuck with me long enough to write this essay.

The problem wasn’t the music. For a decade those albums have had a secure place in my rotation. Their lyrics always inspire. I’ve talked about all of them with complete strangers.  Simply put, I don’t need a reason to listen to them.

But this essay needed to be about an album I’ve struggled to listen to. This essay is about the songs I can’t stand  because they know too much about me. This essay is for the record that saw me through the times I could never forget and thus, choose not to return.

This essay’s for DC Talk’s Jesus Freak (1995). (more…)

Albums 20: So Open the Door

So Open the Door

Liana M. Silva

 

I looked through the small cloth cassette case full of cassettes I had saved over the years. I saw it, in the left row, a few tapes up from the bottom: a clear Sony HF 90. I hadn’t finished listening to one of the sides, judging by how the ribbon was split among the two spools.

On the A side, Moya had written the tracks from Nirvana’s Nevermind, and on the B side she listed Beck’s Mellow Gold. My friend’s handwriting, which I was always jealous of for its neatness and its angles, greeted me from the past, like a postcard. The white label had turned yellow and felt stiff. When I pulled out the cassette from its narrow place in the case, the label for Nevermind floated off. I’m not sure if I want to apply glue to put it back on the tape.

When I think of grunge I think of my friendship with Moya. Our friendship grew out of music. Moya and I met in the 3rd grade. That’s when I first remember spending time with her outside of class, on play dates at either my house or hers. I don’t remember a lot of hanging out with Moya in 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade. But in 7th grade, she and I became closer. We participated together in a talent show, and I spent more time with her on weekends working on homework or going to the movies. (more…)