Yesterday was Veterans Day, and a day off from school. I took advantage of the extra day to spend time at the computer working on the book I started writing a few years ago. I hadn’t worked on it in longer than I’m willing to admit; a myriad of excuses always came first. Had to work in the yard, had to grade papers, had to clean under the bed — you know how it goes, I’m sure. But these last few months of writing this blog have put me back in touch with my writing self, and yesterday I was aching to write more.
I had been feeling rather out of sorts for about a week, maybe ten days. It felt as though the glue that held together the organization in my brain had lost its stick. I’d start a task, and not finish. I’d think of something, and forget it. I just felt “off” and couldn’t get rid of the discomfort. What might be causing this unbalance? I eventually concluded it might be about writing. I’m loving this blog project, and am starting to hear that many friends are following it with great interest; for a writer, it can’t get much better than that! I am actually starting to think of myself as a writer, for the first time ever. I’ve always considered myself to be a “person who loves to write,” or a “teacher who writes,” but I’ve never felt that it was valid to call myself a writer. I just wrote because it was fun and brought me joy. I guess it’s the publishing piece that makes a difference. I’ve shared my poetry with family and close friends always, but never went outside that circle of safety. I wrote a piece about motorcycling a number of years ago that was accepted by a magazine — and the publications was sold to another company that month, so my article never saw the light of day. Seeing the WordPress stats on how many people consistently read my stuff . . . leaves me dumfounded. It’s truly powerful.
The second contributing factor may have been that my eighth graders are currently writing poetry, and doing a great job. Almost every student has even done extra credit, surpassing their goals, and there is much good work coming from them. This means, of course, that I have had a LOT of poetry reading to do (about 800 poems, more or less, spread out over four weeks), which I never resent. I love those surprises when I read along and suddenly find a gem that makes me stop to appreciate a student’s insight. Maybe their deep immersion in writing contributed to my own antsy need to get at it.
Whatever it was, I set aside the day off yesterday to get back in touch with the muse.
I had a lot of grunt work to do — finding the publishing information for sources, organizing the many appendices, attachments to the content of the writing, but it felt wonderful. I tried not to revise, at least not much. That seems to be my sticking place; I could revise forever, but I knew I had to make progress.
Time evaporated. Every once in awhile I would get up — refill my coffee mug, stretch, take a minute to play with the dog, and look at the clock. I was astounded each time to see that hours had passed since the last break. Could it really be 11:00? 2:00? 4:30?
I did eventually hit the wall when I got to a new place. But I was happy that I did get to a new place! I had surpassed my goal, which had been to package up what was complete and send out a partial manuscript to the publisher. Now I can spend a little more time to write two more chapters and have a better package to send off. It’s really great to feel that itch to write. There is one particular publisher that I’m hoping will accept my work, but I know I need to prepare for rejection. I think that’s part of the whole procrastination piece: if I don’t send it out, it won’t be rejected. But that means it also won’t be published, so I have to take the leap. If my number one choice doesn’t bite, then I’ll try some others. There are several publishers of educational books, and if none of them go for it I still have other options in the growing self-publishing field. I am going to be thick-skinned about this.
Oh, yeah, you’re probably wondering what the book is about. You may have heard the adage, “Write what you know,” perhaps? I’m writing about teaching. It’s a book for middle school teachers, and I’ve given it the working title, Inspired to Read, Inspired to Write: Making a Difference for Middle School Kids, which you may find predictable if you read my blog from October 23rd, “Parent Conferences and Facebook.” In all my years of teaching I have been led to believe by many people that what I do in my English/Language Arts classes is unique as well as effective, and this project is my way of trying to expand my effectiveness. If other teachers can make sense of it, and try it in their own classrooms, then I really will have made a difference.
Tomorrow — Saturday — I’ll be back here at the computer, writing like crazy. I have to make up for the time I’ve lost while I was busy cleaning, raking and playing solitaire on my iPod. I just have to write.