Feeling Writerly

Something's changed in the last month or so. I feel excited about writing again. For a long time--years--I haven't felt like a writer. Part of it is the imposter syndrome that most, if not all, writers experience. But part of it was that I felt like the writing I was doing wasn't going anywhere. When I chose "change" as my word of the year, this feeling was one of the things I wanted to change.

So, in the last month, I've focused on "going somewhere" with my writing. I'm working on pitches for two articles for a children's history magazine. I'm polishing a short story to submit to an anthology. All three are due at the end of this month, and I expect every one of them to be rejected. That's how rusty I am. For me, this exercise isn't about acceptance. It's about putting myself--or rather, my work--out there.

After I send these submissions into the wild, it will be time to find another deadline or two to pursue. And time to work on Draft 4 of my novel-in-progress.

It's still a struggle to balance work, writing, and life. More often than not, the scales still tip toward work. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

The Best Book I Read This Month: The Quartet by Joseph Ellis

I've decided to try something new this year, part of my effort to be more involved in the writing community. Each month I'm going to write about the best book I read that month. The books won't be the latest releases or the hot new things. I'm way behind the curve on all that stuff. Most of the time, I'm so far behind I don't even know where the curve is.  These are just the books that grabbed my attention and held my interest.

January's book is nonfiction, a work of history called The Quartet by Joseph Ellis. In this book, Ellis tells the story of the functioning and failure of the Articles of Confederation (the nation's first governing document) and how four Founding Fathers brought about a second American Revolution by working--and conspiring--to replace the Articles with the U.S. Constitution. (Bonus points if you can name the four Founders. Their portraits are on the book's cover.)

I've developed a fascination with Revolutionary America in recent years--not the battles or military strategy but the politics and personalities. Ellis is one of my favorite historians on the subject. (His Founding Brothers is another recommended read.) What struck me in The Quartet was not just the personalities of the four Founders but the challenges they faced and the paralysis of the new nation's government. I could not help but see parallels in our current political situation and climate:

  • a distrust of national government

  • regional and sectional tensions

  • the disconnect between the nation's political leadership and the majority of the population

  • manipulation of class tensions to achieve political ends

  • political leaders who believe compromise is equivalent to failure or capitulation

These four Founders were strong enough and single-minded enough to stand up to, withstand, and even take advantage of these challenges to create the government that the country needed not just to survive but to become a true nation (as opposed to the loose collection of states that it had been). That is why we have the political system we have today. What we don't seem to have are men like these four Founders, who had the prescience to see what was best for the nation long-term as a whole and act on it almost single-mindedly, in opposition of the myopic view of their contemporaries, who were focused on their own states and self-interests.

Which isn't to say these men were perfect. They were deeply flawed human beings in many ways: Hamilton's arrogance and Madison's inflexibility, especially. Just that they put their nation as their first priority and that they had a broader vision than their contemporaries, or ours.

 

Note: Clicking on the book cover will take you to the book's Amazon page.

The Word of the Year

A new year calls for a new word.

Last year and its word (go) set a pretty high bar.  And maybe it was all that go-ing that made me feel so restless by the end of 2016. My trip to Wales, especially, helped me see my life in a new light. I saw areas of my life that I had tolerated, maintained, and even encouraged--even though they weren't really working for me anymore.

On top of that, my new job renewed my hope of finally getting out of this hell-hole townhouse. (Seriously. I hate it. I have for years, especially in the winter. Right now, as I type this, I can feel the cold air seeping through the walls.) I want 2017 to be the year that The Big Move happens. (You hear that, real estate market? I'm counting on you to cooperate!)

Of course, I could just be having the proverbial mid-life crisis.

Either way, I'm ready for: 

Photo by bernie_photo/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by bernie_photo/iStock / Getty Images

And that's my word for 2017.

The Year in Pictures

Last year, I chose the word "Go" as my word for 2016. It proved far more fitting than I imagined it would:

I went to the eye doctor and got my first prescription for bifocals.

I went to the eye doctor and got my first prescription for bifocals.

I went to a local animal rescue and found Duncan.

I went to a local animal rescue and found Duncan.

I went to California, where I put my toes in the ocean, spent Passover with family and friends, and finally met face-to-face co-workers I've known online for years.

I went to California, where I put my toes in the ocean, spent Passover with family and friends, and finally met face-to-face co-workers I've known online for years.

I went to the local bike trail and walked 4 miles to the next town and back.

I went to the local bike trail and walked 4 miles to the next town and back.

I went to the UK and explored northern Wales, largely on foot.

I went to the UK and explored northern Wales, largely on foot.

I went on writing retreat weekends at local hotels and finished two drafts of my novel.

I went on writing retreat weekends at local hotels and finished two drafts of my novel.

Photo by Hailshadow/iStock / Getty Images And one thing that fell in my lap without my going anywhere: my biggest freelance client offered me a full-time job (which I accepted), giving me some much needed financial stability.

Photo by Hailshadow/iStock / Getty Images

And one thing that fell in my lap without my going anywhere: my biggest freelance client offered me a full-time job (which I accepted), giving me some much needed financial stability.

2016 certainly had its challenges, but I have to say that personally, it was a very good year.