- 16,631 words
Stories Worked On:
- Buried Among Stars
- Ocmulgee River Dragon
- Opening novel chapter
- Another Superhero story
You know what I don’t acknowledge enough?
I have plenty of them. I’ve won honorable mention for a writing award when I was enrolled in graduate school. I was one of 11 finalist for a writing fellowship based in Boston. I have a handful of rejections from literary magazines where I was encouraged to submit to again. And just last week, I was notified that I was placed on the waiting list for the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in Middlebury, Vermont.
The news put me in a daze for the rest of the week. I’m still in a small state of disbelief. If you read my February Writer’s Journal Entry, then you may remember I briefly mentioned submitting my application for the conference.
“This is my second or third year applying to Bread Loaf and my first year applying to Clarion. If I’m honest, I’m not expecting to get into Bread Loaf because I suspect that my writing, while it has improved over the years, is not quite at the caliber that the application committee is looking for. If this year brings another rejection from this conference, then I won’t feel too heartbroken.”
I love that was proven wrong and there’s still a small possibility I could get a spot in the conference before it starts. (Though the conference is expensive, so I would need to search for a way to finance the trip. But that’s a hurdle for another day.)
Here’s what I’m finding: I’m still building my confidence as a writer and each small victory builds my self-esteem little by little. This life was something I wanted for myself since I was in middle school, but I put it off because I never believed I could actually find success. I was further discouraged by my 7th grade middle school English teacher. I remember only small snippets from that day, but I remember her barely lifting a finger to help me. I remember leaving her classroom upset, with my head held low. I went back to the cafeteria and sat with my friends. I don’t remember if I engaged with them, but I remember giving up on my dream. But the worst memory is this: I felt like an idiot for trying to step outside my comfort zone and that feeling stuck with me for years. Even now, nearly 15 years later, it’s a memory and a feeling I struggle to shake off.
I still wrote stories on and off for years, but it was a hobby, something I did in my spare time that I didn’t intend to share with other people. I applied to MFA programs, not fully believing I would get accepted anywhere. I submitted stories for publication, but I wasn’t confident the editors would like it or want to publish it. Even when I share my drafts with friends, I’m waiting for the disapproving looks, the judgmental, harsh comments that this story just isn’t good enough. But that never happens because I’m fortunate to have a group of supportive, caring and kind-hearted friends. I’m grateful for them and indebted to them.
We’re always looking for the next big success in our lives. But rarely do we take the time to acknowledge those smaller victories, the ones that come after days, weeks, months or years of hard work. It’s easy to feel like we’re not progressing, especially when we’re bombarded with other people’s successes on social media. We doubt ourselves too much. Or at least, I know I doubt myself and don’t give myself enough credit. It’s incredibly difficult to break out of that self-defeating mindset. And that’s why I think these minor successes, these small victories are so important. They’re a reminder that your work and dedication is just being consumed by the void. Somewhere out there, someone is taking notice and they want you to keep going!
Where do I go from here? Well, I still have two applications to submit. One, the Boston fellowship I was a finalist for in 2017, is due this upcoming Monday. I’m submitting an entirely new project that I’m still developing and I’m piecing the proposal together bit by bit. I’m finished with the writing sample and the proposal, which I’ll read through this weekend to catch any errors. I’m still uncertain how it will turn out, but I can say my writing is good. The other application is due in July so I still have time.
I also wrote two brand new short stories this month. I was inspired and I made a decision to write solely for myself. And I think they’re the best stories I’ve ever written! The “Another Superhero story” was a way for me to express my feelings and frustrations about family. It has the strongest opening I’ve ever written. I read through it the other day and was blown away by it. That rarely happens to me.
Once my Boston application is in, I’ll make some notes on the stories and revise them. I’m not sure how many drafts I’ll need to write. But summer break is around the corner and I’ll finally have time to focus on my craft.
And if I’m efficient, I may have time to squeeze out a novel draft over the summer. But I won’t overwork myself.
I’m proud of myself. I still have a ways to go to have the type of life I’ve always imagined and wanted for myself. But it no longer feels intangible. I still think about that little girl who went to a teacher for help. She still lives inside of me. Sometimes she even takes control, pulling me down in a hole that I believe I can’t climb out of. But sometimes, when she shows up, I simply smile at her and tell her it will be okay. Because I believe that in the end, things will work out. I may lose sight of that. It’s pretty easy to do in this world. But I’ve been proven wrong countless times and I know I’ll be proven wrong again.
How’s your writing/creative projects coming along? Do you have any major summer plans? Stop by in the comments and let me know!
And as always, thank you for taking the time to read these posts!