The Joy of Challenge

The Joy of Challenge

Planning my fall WRI course

Planning my Fall WRI Course

Two short weeks from when I am writing this post, we will be back in class. With so much happening in such a brief period of time (department meetings, training, putting the finishing touches on my Writing and Rhetoric I course for the fall, and, of course, new student orientation!), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed after a few months of decompression without those same deadlines, meetings, and requirements. I’ll admit it, though; I was starting to miss it.

Wind Farms in Indiana

Throwback to Last Summer: Wind Farms in Indiana on the Way to Chicago

When I arrived in Chicago a year ago (August 19th was my Chicago anniversary), I hit the ground running with meetings, orientation, and work training. With the exception of winter break, I’ve kept up with that same non-stop pace that grad school lends itself to. Although when the semester finally ended in May, I was a bit burnt out (what grad student isn’t?) I was also excited to finally have time to catch up on sleep(!), proud that I made it through the first year and what I have created thus far in the program, and exhilarated because I knew that in a few months I would enter stage two of my MFA program, one step closer to completion.

During my last blog post I was in the midst of moving chaos. A few weeks later I can happily say that I’m settled into my new apartment and have started making it my own. The most important part? My office! That’s right, folks, no more working in the living room, feet away from my dear fiancé as he furiously types away at his own computer and takes phone calls (he works at home). No more feelings of constant interruption just because he gets up and wants to move around the apartment and happens to walk by my desk! Yes, it is a thing of beauty.

Home, Sweet Home

Home, Sweet Home

Just a couple nights ago I fell into some glorious incidental productivity. You know the kind—where you set an hour or two aside to work but end up working for four hours and completely lose track of the time. Your mind is racing and fingers are flying and you look up and realize that it’s dark out and way later than you thought. It’s the type of work session that I (and many of my writer friends) dream of (opposed to the obligatory work session where you watch the clock and constantly check your word count to reinforce that there is a tangible measure of your progress).

George Orwell wrote “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

There is the agony of writing, of haven’t having written and knowing you should (damn excuses!), of editing, but wrapped in each thin layer of struggle that accompanies the tasks of writing, editing, rewriting, and sharing your work with others are nuggets of joy. Writing is a great challenge, and apart from because I have things to say and ideas to explore, I continue to write because it constantly presents new challenges. In each piece, I go to places I have not been before—an explorer of uncharted territory who must decide what moves to make, where, when, and how. When one faces those challenges, and then comes the joy, the relief, the renewed desire to dive back into the page. I will not say that writing during the break was easy—it was in some ways more challenging than writing during the school year due to the isolation (we write to reach readers, after all) that comes with vacations and holing oneself up in one’s apartment to work instead of hanging out at the beach, but that isolation is also liberating because the outside voices are finally shushed and instead of wondering how a piece will go over in workshop or how a professor might respond, you just write. Time to reflect on the challenges of the craft are in some ways (for me) just as important as practicing it, renewing my drive to continue.

If last year was any indication, the second year will not be easy either, but why would I even want it to be?