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Saturday, April 3, 2010

On Quitting

"Don't do that you'll regret it," my mom says over the phone. 
"No, actually I won't," I tell her in regards to the latest bad idea I have.  "At this point I regret not quitting a year ago.  At this point the only thing I am loosing is my time."

We're talking about school.  Again.
"You're so close, Libby.  Just finish it." 
"Fine, if I get everything done on time I'll do it, obviously.  If I don't get everything done I'm done.  I can't do this any longer."

I've been working on my MFA for almost three years.  It's a two-year program, but between a deployment to Iraq and time in Peru I had to extend two semesters.  I'm exhausted and for two semesters I have grown to hate, despise, loathe and whatever other verb you want to add, reading.  I want to burn every stupid book I own.  Now, I'm starting to resent writing.  I try to sit down and do work, but it makes me angry.  I'm pissed off I haven't graduated yet, I'm mad that I don't really have much of a manuscript, just lots of pieces that don't quite connect.  I'm tired and frustrated that I spend everyday of my life so worried about all the work I have to for this program that I can't ever get anything done.  It's a vicious cycle and I fear that school might stop me from writing altogether.  I have done exactly what I was trying not to do - force myself to write.  I went into the Marines because I didn't want to write for a living.  I believe any creative outlet done for money looses its value to the creator.  Apparently, doing it for professors and deadlines ruins it too.  The funny thing is I never studied writing with the goal of publication or a career.  I write for the same reason I play the piano when nobody is around to hear - I enjoy the act.  If someone came to me and asked to publish the crap I'm throwing together as my final manuscript would I object?  Of course not, but I also don't need a book to validate what the value writing is and has been for me.

What am I trying to say?  I had a professor ask me after every piece I sent to her, "What are you trying to say?  Figure that out and say it."  It was the most important lesson I have learned in the many years I've spent studying writing.  What I'm declaring right here, right now to whomever comes upon this post is this - if I don't finish the things I need to finish by the deadlines of this semester I'm done.  I'm not going to regret not finishing this even though I'm so close.  In many ways I think it will free me.  I spend time at school and online talking about writing with very competitive, adult writers and it has stripped the joy out of the task.  In June - one way or another - I'm going to be done with school.  Do not call, write or try to convince me otherwise.  I'm telling you, not asking for encouragement, this is over.

In the last week people have tried to encourage me.  It's useless.  Mark Twain once said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do."  Well, I'm in school for writing and I no longer write.  I think twenty years from now I'll be more disappointed that I did not have the courage to follow my heart so I could continue doing what I love rather than focusing on getting a piece of paper that I don't need in order to write.  Off and on for the last ten years I have been in school for writing asking permission from professors, administrators, financial aid directors to write.  I don't need permission to write.  I need freedom to write.  We teach our children to follow their dreams and not to quit what they have started, but what happens when one is in the way of the other?

1 comment:

  1. Lisbeth,
    I wish that I had taken more creative arts courses when I was young. Now in my 50's, and a scientist for over 30 years, I appreciate writing and the arts more than ever. Whenever I travel to scientific conferences, I find myself visiting museums and appreciating the creative arts. Please consider finishing your MFA for people like me who did not seize the opportunity to do what we perhaps should have done.