Thursday, November 29, 2007


November is coming to an end, and with it, the Book in a Month Challenge, a semi-insane internet phenomenon designed to help writers overcome blocks and complete their projects. The idea is to clear all obligations for the month and write like mad every day. The object is not to have a saleable manuscript finished before the Santa season, but rather to overcome internal criticism and market worries by losing yourself in the work.

I participated once, years ago, and the experience taught me that time is elastic. It can be stretched to fit around any desired objective. The most important step toward accomplishing a goal is defining that goal.

That is where I am stuck now. I have been writing supplementary materials for teachers almost nonstop since 2001. When I finished one project, another always appeared. Late this spring, the flow of assignments stopped. I welcomed the break, and I do have other projects, now, but it disturbs me that I wasted wonderful months I could have used to write a couple of longer spec projects I have been developing in the back of my mind for the last couple of years.

I found myself, instead, posting photographs, paintings, and digital art to sales sites online. I would wake up every morning and tell myself I should write, but I could not make myself do it. This situation reminds me of the time, back in 1987, when I began to paint. At that time, my daughter was young, I was teaching full time, and I was writing fiction and free verse poetry at night. I had a great class at a nice school, but everything, all of a sudden, became empty.

The emptiness stopped soon after I started painting. Since then, I have been careful to include visual art in my life, but I think that, lately, I have not been doing enough. Part of the problem is that I am not sure what course to pursue, next. I work in series. Sometimes, a series lasts for several years. Sometimes, just for a few months, but when a series is finished, it is finished and I have to wait for that stirring of excitement that draws me into another.

Right now, I am hanging in space. Working on a couple of writing assignments, and waiting for that stirring. I think it is just under the surface of my consiousness, but it is not definite enough, yet.

It is easier, I think, for famous artists with established styles. They go to their easels and work in the ways they have developed. I have an advantage. I have total freedom when I paint because nobody cares what I do, or even whether I do anything or not. Unfortunately, this is a disadvantage, too.

This brings me back to setting a goal. I do not want to paint to match trends, but what DO I want to do?

Perhaps I need to just rest, play, and let my next group of projects gestate in uncomfortable silence. Waiting is hard.