I know that zombies are en vogue right now, but no amount of limp, humanizing zombie propaganda (I’m looking at you, ‘Warm Bodies’) is going to convince me that I wouldn’t rather end up as a vampire. I should specify that I mean thoroughly badass vampires like Juliet Landau in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Kiefer Sutherland in “The Lost Boys.” Under no circumstances do I wish to rise from the dead as a character from a young adult novel. Anyway, I digress. After a few months of internet silence, I’m back from the dead, so to speak, and just in time for Halloween.
It’s taken me a few months to figure out how to balance writing and teaching with life as a doctoral student. This past June, I started working on my Ph.D in Literature and Criticism. I knew it would be a challenge. I thought I knew what was coming. I didn’t. It was absolutely brutal…and I couldn’t have loved it more. Academic utopia aside, one concern I did have about the program was how it was going to affect my writing. How could I write a poem or work on a novel when I was fighting off panic attacks about the candidacy exam? However, since June I’ve found that a sustainable balance exists. Here’s what happened:
I spent two months in a small town in Pennsylvania. I thought that I’d write a lot of poems about being in a new place, but I spent most of my time in classrooms and libraries. As a result, I wrote a lot of poems about being in school. In the midst of all this, my book was rejected during my first couple weeks aways, when I was still feeling pretty homesick and overwhelmed. True to drama-queen form, I had a full-blown meltdown. The thing was, though, I didn’t really have the time to lick my wounds. After some tearful phone calls to home, I had to get back in the saddle and read another hundred pages of Plato. If the summer taught me anything in regard to life skills, it’s resilience.
It’s not that I wasn’t resilient before. All artists have to stand up to disappointment, rejection, blocked creativity, and insecurity at some points in their careers. (Unless they are both supremely talented and impossibly lucky, in which case I respectfully doff my hat.) The thing is, I used to wallow in these things for awhile. I felt like I needed to, and it’s not that I don’t still wallow a little bit. I do. However, being in a situation that didn’t allow me the luxury of being crippled by self-defeating garbage made me realize that I can push through it faster. Maybe even immediately. I can write and also feel gutted by my latest rejection letter. The two are not mutually exclusive. Case in point: I got my latest rejection letter today. As per usual, it felt like the Incredible Hulk punched me in the stomach, but last night I wrote a poem. Tomorrow, I might write another one. For now, I’m writing this. To you.
This is a little more Hallmark-esque than usual. Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen again. 🙂 It’s good to be back. I missed you guys.