(Warning: Some of you are going to hate these ideas. Too bad for you!)
So, we all write because we love writing, and if we were never published, we'd still do it because we have to. We can't do without it. Right? Right? (Hint: the correct answer is ‘yes.’)
Even so, it’s hard not to feel like one is falling behind. Not doing enough. Not publishing enough poems or attending the right conference or keeping to the right writing practice. Sometimes half of your brain is focusing on your writing, the other half is focusing on this go-go-go, more-more-more, better-better-better idea.
The latter half can really stifle the good things coming It's draining, isn't it? As long as you allow it to, it pulls away a percentage of your consciousness and energy that are always at work (uselessly, most of the time, I might add) on this problem, and could be better used elsewhere. Maybe...um...in your writing?
We've all heard about how we need to live in the present, how the present is where we create the future - by the seeds we sow today - the actions and thoughts and emotions we have this minute.
So how do we let go of this publication thing and enjoy life, send out our queries and not obsess about them, enjoy our writing, and also believe that, one day, we too will find our book on the Barnes & Noble remainder table?
It's pretty simple: pretend you're published. Pretend that you've got a book deal and your book is coming out one year from now. It's all signed and sealed. You can relax now. You've made it.
So, with that taken care of, what would you do with that year? How would you enjoy your life? What would you focus on? What would you write?
Something you've always wanted to, hopefully. Something that involves challenging yourself and/or taking a risk. Maybe a new form you're not so sure about - poetry if you're a prose writer. Playwriting. Screenwriting. Not what you think will sell but what you feel called to write.
Sit down right now and answer these two questions. Make a 'life' list and a 'writing' list. Then start at the top of each and do and write those things in 2010. Make it long or short, but don't just focus on the writing list, because what you do from the life list will energize your work. The two go hand in hand.
Extra credit: if you need a little help with the pretending your book is coming out, create the cover. Do it as a collage or do it in Photoshop or Word, or whatever you can manage. Pick your colors, font, cover art, publisher name, price, author photo, and even write some blurbs from writers you admire for the back.
Hell, add 'now a major motion picture starring______' if you want. Why not?
Then tack it up somewhere where you can see it every day.
And start planning your publication party, because I bet once you've relinquished your death grip on that desire, it will happen faster than you think.
Chris Stewart is program director for literary arts with the Maryland State Arts Council. A teacher/mentor of prose and poetry, she lives in Baltimore. Check out her new Sense and Sensibility-inspired project at www.embarkingoncourseofstudy.com