Success! Fellow writers know how rare it is to start anything about one’s writing with the word success. And here I’ve already used it twice. I arrived at Ragdale 16 days ago with specific goals in mind. Not spoken aloud or committed to anyone but me. I should do that more often given I’m fairly certain I’m my toughest critic. I needed to complete a second essay for class, and I needed to redraft my first essay and hand it in at the last class, which is tonight. Since the program isn’t graded, it’s what our teacher uses to gauge whether we’re prepared to move on to the next semester.
Lastly, I’ve been fussing with an essay for more than a year, redrafting and revising and getting nowhere. Some of the drafts are downright embarrassing. I decided while here at Ragdale that this essay is a bully, so I did what one should do to any bully— blow it up. No, I do not mean literally. The only advice I have to handle human bullies are to bully them back. They usually don’t want you on their playground but haven’t a clue what to do if you don’t cave when they get in your face. Blowing up an essay I’ve struggled with day after day, month after month, was the only solution I could arrive at that wouldn’t have me cleaning and landscaping all of Ragdale to avoid revising it for the 734th time. “Killing your darlings,” is what William Faulkner said about the writing process, and knocking off my lead, some well written passages and its structure is what I did.
Once I realized what I had to do, it wasn’t that hard. In fact, it was a relief. I let go of the old, the obvious, and even some pretty good insights, all of those darlings I thought were critical to the piece. I did new research, opened a new page, took the time to create a solid new lead and blew that bully right off my laptop. Well, not right off, but over the course of ten days I have a new essay on an old topic that’s been intimidating me for too long. And if feels great.
I’ve been spending a lot of time (practically all of it, through the magic of Ragdale) lining up the right words in the right order all in the pursuit of good story telling. What a crazy calling is working with words. I don’t think anyone chooses to be a writer, we’re just born with the gene. And with it rarely comes the feeling of success so I’m wallowing in it. I’m inhaling the last hours of this residency, trying not to get caught up in the thought of reentering everyday life and marveling at the great fortune that allowed me a second residency where many a muse await their artist—be they visual, musical or wordsmiths. Still, I miss my family and friends. It’s time. I don’t want to get in the face of success.