Friday, November 14, 2008

Gates of Excellence

A couple of years ago, I read Gates of Excellence by Katherine Paterson. Since I had read many of her books, it was like visiting a good friend. So many things she said in that book have stuck in my head ... but one statement in particular (thank you, Darcy for getting the exact quote) resonates:

I was writing — learning and growing along with the children — until eventually I was writing fiction worthy of publication. It might have happened sooner had I had a room of my own and fewer children, but somehow I doubt it. For as I look back on what I have written, I can see that the very persons who have taken away my time and space are those who have given me something to say.

This is so true for me. My children, my pets, the very responsibilities that I wish I could take a break from are the ones that inspire me to write. My very first magazine pieces that were accepted are actually family stories about quite mundane things, like sorting socks, weeding, mending clothes. And I'm delighted to have these stories beautifully illustrated.

I have put away my novel for the remainder of the year. I've been juggling so many new activities since this summer -- teaching, an insane football practice schedule, the new pup who is now entering her doggie teens (she's 5 mo. old), and church -- that I am not able to focus on the novel at all. I was surprised that I don't feel bereft, rather enriched a hundredfold by all these experiences.

Giving myself permission to stop working on my novel has freed up my mind to work on other things ... and I'm again writing short pieces. Oh, it's wonderful. I've missed this. And thanks go to Kathryn Galbraith for inviting me to speak to her class about magazine writing. It was a fantastic reminder to get busy myself. I tell you, teaching really lets you learn those lessons well.


Angela Ackerman said...

Good for you for knowing when you were overloaded and when to scale back. Becca and I had this very conversation when we discovered she was expecting, and she's still got her foot in things by attempting small pieces rather than novels. Whatever works, right?

Vijaya said...

Yup, new babies give new perspective ... and childhood is fleeting. I don't want to miss any of it. Glad that Becca is working on shorter pieces for now. It's so refreshing to actually finish something, even if it's just a three-line poem. Good luck to both of you.