Being Authentic – In Writing and In Life

This is going to be an odd year for me.

Now, I know that some of you are thinking – wait. It’s August. How do you know what 2016 will be like already? Because I don’t go by a calendar year; I go by an academic year. August to May. June and July are bonus months in which I frantically prepare for the coming of August again. So – although technically I live in a 12-month year – I really live in a 10-month year. Normally, not such a big deal, since I’m an adjunct -or was, anyway. Now I’m a full-time instructor and still struggling with that. I still feel like a feral cat that’s been brought indoors.

I never honestly meant to be a teacher. Ask anyone who knew me in high school or my early 20s, and they’ll tell you that a teacher is the last thing I should be. Yet here I am. Why? How did it come to this? I still don’t know. I think it goes back to me being a pantser at heart, in writing and in life, and never having a real plan for anything.

Right now, teaching is my ‘main gig,’ so I have no choice but to stick with it. But my real passions wait for me at home. My vintage shop on Etsy. Thrifting on the weekends. My kitties (though I do wonder if they even notice I’m gone during the day).

My writing.

But it’s my writing that seems to suffer the most. I find it so hard to write when I feel depressed, and these past weeks, as I tried to come to grips with the reality of my new situation and how drastically my life was going to change – yes, I’m fully aware that I’m on the only person on earth who gets depressed over getting a full-time job, thank you – I could barely pick up any of my manuscripts or type anything new.

Over the last few days, though, I’ve been able to come back to my romance novel a little. Just a bit. And to my surprise and delight, I’ve found that what I had written wasn’t half-bad, and what I’m writing now – though not a lot – is fairly good, too. Sometimes when you write, you feel like every single word is being forced out of you; every sentence is Mount Everest. And sometimes – the way it should be – the words pour out. You’re in the voice of your characters. Without thinking, you delve back into their diction, their accents, their lives. That’s what the last few days have been like for me. And they’ve given me some hope that maybe these characters will stick with me for a while and work with me. Let me tell their story.

I’ve been reading Sarah ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance this year, and we have reached August – the time of creativity. She says that if we want to be truly happy in life, we must trust our instincts, follow what we are guided to do, and above all, honor our gifts.

One thing she emphasizes  – and how many of us can identify with THIS?! – is that when an idea comes to us, whether it’s a character, a plot for a new novel, an idea for an article, or whatever – we need to grab it then and there and hold on to it. Even if we can’t quite get to it Right Then and There, we still have to take note of the idea, jot it down, ruminate on it, never let it out of our hands. And never once doubt that we can actually do it. She quotes William Hutchinson Murray, who led an expedition to Mount Everest in 1951:  “. . . the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

One thing writers always say is, “I had this idea, but someone else wrote it first.” And that’s okay. How many Scottish romances are on the shelves right now? Three hundred? More? And yet, publishers are still buying them, aren’t they? Sarah says “It is impossible for you to be an original. But you can be authentic . . . Why do you think you were offered the spiritual and creative opportunity?” My romance novel is set in the American colonies on the eve of the Revolutionary War. There are a few hundred others out there in that same time period. But this is my writing, my characters, my plot.

As I think about my Authentic Self and What I’m Meant To Do Here (which, apparently, has nothing to do with winning the freaking lottery), it always comes back to writing. Writing has always been there for me. It was how I survived high school. My characters are always waiting for me, nudging me from time to time to remind me that they’re still there and would I please come visit them and this time, might I write some more on their novel, please?

My authentic self is probably not a full-time teacher. It may not be a full-time anything, honestly. I may be one of those people who happily has five or six things going at once, juggling all of them and happy to do it. I’ve done it for ten years, after all. So as I head into a new year, I have a few resolutions to make:  That by the end of my year (in May) I will have at least one manuscript ready to be sent to agents, if not before.That someday, I will be able to support myself by writing novels.

That sometime soon, August won’t be the start of a new year, it will just be one more month, the last month of summer, another beautiful warm month to enjoy as I sit outside and write, with my kitties playing and locusts singing in the trees.

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