Some Advice on Writing and Life

photo by Victoria Ristenbatt
photo by Victoria Ristenbatt

So right about now, this book I’m writing is feeling a little bit like that mean kid who holds something like your notebook or your hat just out of reach while you jump at it over and over, thinking this time you’re going to grab hold and not let go. I’m feeling kind of blue about the fact that I’m not done. (Side note: If you are feeling kind of blue, listening to Kind of Blue may actually help, especially “Blue in Green.”) My self-imposed deadline of the end of March has come and gone, but I’m still not done. Every essay I plan to include has at least been started, but I’m still not done. Since beginning this journey, I’ve written fifty posts for this blog, I’ve published excerpts from my manuscript in Creative Nonfiction and The Chattahoochee Review and have one forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, I’ve read selections from it at several story nights in Chicago and I have one more slightly thrilling book-related announcement I’m not at liberty to make yet. I’ve learned a lot, I’m a better writer than I was when I started—

But. I’m. Still. Not. Done.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a writing conference in Poets and Writers that sounded kind of dreamy. It takes place at the Algonquin Hotel (among other spots) in Manhattan, surrounded by the ghosts of writers past; they only accept a handful of writers—and they hook you up with literary agents cherry picked to be a good fit for your particular manuscript. And though it costs beaucoup dollars, which I don’t currently have on hand, I applied anyway in case they had financial aid or scholarships or something like that. Continue reading Some Advice on Writing and Life

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Meeting Resistance: On Writing, Workouts and Endurance

worn-out-shoes

I’m out of shape. I’ve fallen out of my not-exactly-Olympian but relatively consistent get-up-and-move exercise habit. I need to get back into it because 1. it’s good for my health, 2. it’s an indispensable mood elevator during long, dark Chicago winters and 3. it builds endurance. That third thing, I’ve found, has much farther-reaching benefits than just logging mileage on the treadmill.

As a kid, I lived very much in my head. I built forts and sandcastles, I swung on swings and climbed jungle gyms—but really taxing, sweaty, whole-body-limbs-and-heart engaged movement, not so much. Team sports sent me into a spiral of panic. I didn’t really come home to my body until I signed up for jazz dance in high school at Feet First! (The exclamation point was part of the name.) Our teacher was pixie-sized; we danced to Prince and Duran Duran in black and electric blue spandex. In college I picked up my roommate’s running habit, bundling up on winter afternoons and running past fields of rasping cornstalks. Continue reading Meeting Resistance: On Writing, Workouts and Endurance