Tag Archives: Gordon from After the MFA

Updates from the writing trenches

For those of you folks Googling my guest blogger Nick like mad (trust me, no exaggeration), here is an excerpt from his latest low-tech e-mail newsletter:

“And in the middle of this [the oil spill], strangely, I’m planning a four-month exodus. Four months of travel across the country, for reasons ranging from work to family to catharsis. I’m struggling a little with that right now. This year feels very much about reconnecting and putting things to rest. Forgiveness. Completion. All that jazz. And that all sounds great. I’ve been planning this for a while. But in the middle of these great thoughts, and the possibility of completing my book (more on this in a moment), there are two hang-ups. One is a measure of guilt that I am leaving with that ugly slick hanging a hundred miles away. The other is the very real fear that, when I come back to New Orleans, it won’t be home anymore.

Let me explain…

In thirty-one and a half years on this planet, I’ve lived in eight states and a foreign country. I’ve moved roughly thirty-five times. Since I’ve landed in New Orleans, however, the idea of changing my zip code again has seemed insane. I’ve never lived anywhere in my life that felt more like home. This is the advantage of moving a lot. I’m sure I’ve found home. I’m living the life I want. And now I’m going to bug out for a few months to go close loops, see people, and finish my novel. And then I’ll come back.

The best way I can frame this is as a love affair. New Orleans is my girl. And I’m going to leave my girl for four months. And I have this deep fear that she’s going to change the locks while I’m gone. That I’ll come back to the only place in the world I can imagine calling home and find myself rejected.

It’s probably an irrational fear, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Maybe it won’t be like that. Maybe New Orleans will take me back with open arms. Maybe she’ll make me sleep on the couch for a few nights, and I’ll have to bring her flowers and candy and tell her she’s the only one for me. Which is true. But if I get back here and can’t hear the walls breathe anymore, I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.

It might be that the oil spill is making it more real, or that it’s making me feel that I’m abandoning a place I profess to care so much about. I don’t know. But I’m going anyway. This summer is going to mean something important. I’m sure of that. And, in my better moments, I’m sure I know exactly why.”

I’m always a little jealous of Nick’s summer ramblings, I must confess. A lot of people do leave New Orleans during the summers. But while I understand Nick’s need to use the time for his travels — traveling is important, transformative — I have to say, summer in New Orleans is a strange time. Sometimes awful, sometimes wonderful. You kind of have to experience it for yourself. So  maybe, Nick, if you whisper in your girl’s ear, “I promise I’ll stay next summer,” maybe she’ll welcome you back more easily than you think. When you come back. 🙂

Nick’s newsletter ends:

“One final note. On Friday, I completed the third draft of my novel. 384 pages. 111,000 words. Whew.

I’m going to do a final polish in the next couple months. And then I’ll start sending it out. More details to follow. It’s nice to be in the homestretch.

I have two weeks left in this city before I hit the road, and it’s a strange place to be in. I feel like my whole life is looking at my history right now, and bringing it up to speed with my present. I’m moving out of my place and placing my things in a storage locker. In two weeks, I’ll board a Philadelphia bound train with a backpack and a guitar and spend four months living on the road. Finishing my book, playing music, reading and writing poems, collecting stories. And all this in the faith that when I come back to New Orleans, she lets me come home.

Sometimes you have to have that faith. A month ago, I watched Meghan walk down the aisle. On May 20, my grandparents will celebrate their sixty-sixth wedding anniversary. We’re human, and silly as it seems, we make plans. And there’s a good reason for that.

Sometimes our plans work out.

All the good songs,

While we’re on updates, I got one from Gordon of After the MFA for the first time in a while. In his post Overcoming the Urge to Quit, there are times he could be speaking my own thoughts:

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit morose over the last couple of years. I have wanted to quit wanting to write and been indulging that demon as much as possible. But something kept stringing me along. I didn’t want to succumb to writer’s block. Maybe because I don’t believe in it. I just need the proper motivation. Getting an MFA Isnt the proper motivation. Getting published isn’t either. Teaching isn’t it. Praise from a teacher or workshop don’t do it either. It’s from me… Or you if you’ve been going through the same thing as me.

In any case, I am playing the part of my own motivation and saying to everyone who wants to listen that I am back (on the block?) and I want to be a writer. I am a writer.

And now it’s time to write.

I hope people are still out there, sort of watching me and my self-neglected blog. I want to make this as public as possible — I am committing to finishing something I am proud of and working hard at it. There. I said it.

Have you been going through some rough writing times? Would love to know how you worked through it. For me, I guess it’s just been a matter of giving it time and eventually getting sick of hearing myself complain. That and ultimately showing my two beautiful girls that quitting at something you love just shouldn’t be an option.


My sister, Aimee, also sent out an e-mail to friends and family recently.

“Thanks to all of you who have supported my writing previously. I’ve been having trouble making myself write and finish my novel. That’s why I’m sending you this message. I have a deadline. October 31. By October 31 I will finish the first draft of my novel. Simple? Not exactly. After all, what is a deadline without some consequence for not meeting it or reward for succeeding? That’s where you come in. For those of  you who would like to participate, please come up with some incentive for me to meet my deadline. Tantalize me. Pressure me. I perform under pressure. So if you would like to help, send me a message back telling me why it is I must complete my novel by the deadline. And then, periodically, keep reminding me. But please don’t feel obligated if you’d rather not.

Thanks everyone!

It’s tough finding time and motivation for something like a novel. But we’re all pushing through. If you read my blog, I’d love for you to comment – send little encouraging messages to these writers. To us writers, I should say. I’m one of them.

My deadline has gone out the window, what with the job. And I’m grateful the job came when it did – you’ve no idea. Sometimes, it’s even harder to work on your own projects when you actively love your day job, like I do. 🙂 It’s a good problem to have. But, in solidarity with these writers, I’ve decided to set a deadline for myself.

I will finish the third draft of my novel by October 31st, same as Aimee. I want to be done in time for NaNoWriMo. No ifs ands or buts. No whining or excuses. Just a third draft. By October 31st.


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