Earlier this afternoon, I submitted my application for another summer writing workshop at Collegeville. This one is a continuation of the workshop with Lauren Winner I got to participate in last year. The title for the workshop she’ll lead in June is Revision, Christian Spirituality and the Writing Life. The focus of this one is the painstaking, less glamorous and yet, profoundly spiritual work of trying again, then again, and then one more time,to get closer to what the writer has intended to write so the words really shine, really illuminate, really draw the reader onward in pilgrimage.
Hitting the send button, I felt the same trepidation that made it almost impossible for me to complete my application last year. I am as insecure as ever, though now I am doing more to overcome the nasty little voices of ‘no’. I have been able to achieve some clarity and peace about the low-residency MFA program Lauren encouraged me to consider as part of a move towards greater depth and professionalism in my writing. This year I have learned to say out loud that writing is an essential part of my vocation. I have also come to see that the bottom line for now is, I can’t start on that MFA. Maria still has enormous needs. I see my dad’s fragility daily, and I have learned I can’t anticipate when he will need more of my time and attention. Work is endlessly surprising and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do the work I want and need to do to honor and serve a community that’s put their faith in me as a member of the leadership team. And most of all: the time I have with my squirrel-whispering guy is beyond precious to me. I don’t take it for granted.
So, I am not jumping into an MFA. What I am doing is finding other ways to sharpen my skills and become a better writer. I have found a person who is well prepared to serve as a writing coach and does so incisively and with love. I’m putting together the reading list of a Creative Writing MFA program and I will work through it on my own time table. I’m pushing myself to keep writing even when it seems those shitty little negative voices scream louder when I get closer to breaking through another barrier to luminescence, which is what I aspire to, in my writing.
Like last year, I have no guarantees. All the workshops at Collegeville are rather fiercely competitive. Now though, I’ve been, I’ve seen just how much I received because I kept taking the risk of rejection. I will keep writing, while I wait to hear, sometime in March, if there will be a place for me this year. And in the meantime, I know, having also gotten their gentle no in the past, how life and writing will go on. It’s a whole string of yeses of my own that now ground my work.
This is the way I have to begin a new year, “filled with truth and grace” as the prologue to John promised once again on Christmas Day.