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Reflections As 2012 Draws To A Close

December 17, 2012

As I wrote in my Thanksgiving blog, 2013 is going to be a year of transitions for me. I am starting a full time low residency Master of Fine Arts program in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The goal is to begin a new period in my life where I focus sharply on publishing and honing my craft as a writer and teacher. Increasing my writing output and quality, as well as getting serious about publishing are the primary goals, but I also want to have more to offer my students. I have been teaching at the college level for thirteen years and there is much still to learn about mentoring aspiring writers.  There is no better way to learn than by being closely mentored myself in a program of excellence. From all accounts, VCFA is that program. Just reading the list of lectures at the upcoming January residency fills me with excitement. I’m still a nerd that way – just as I was as an 18-year-old undergrad.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s that folks don’t really change much over the years. I know I haven’t. “The young girl is the old woman,” someone once said, and how true that is. I still am passionate about reading and writing. What Color Is Your Parachute famously asks readers to reflect on this question: what did you most love to do when you were 10 years old? I recall toiling with my sister and a friend (who is still one of my best) on a neighborhood newspaper. My sister Bonnie drew the pictures, my friend Susan organized and inspired, and I snooped and wrote. Things haven’t changed much for any of us since.

My problem – and I see this with some of my students – is a sort of diffused focus. By this I mean an interest and passion for many things. One of the textbooks I use in teaching magazine writing says that this quality of acute interest in many topics produces the best journalists. After all, curiosity is a primary qualifier for being a good writer.  Yet it can lead us astray as we fail to use the time we have to focus on a single goal. We become what Anne Lamott calls “an ant with small burdens” by which she means we never really get anywhere. Perhaps part of this is attributable to being a woman. After all, a woman’s responsibilities are diverse and never-ending. In my case, besides my full time and part time jobs, I have a husband and two children, a big Victorian house and gardens, as well as an ailing mother to attend to.  The list of my interests doesn’t end with reading and writing either. But my goal in the New Year is to channel those interests in a single direction.

To that end, I’m going to have to let some things go. Emerson wrote, “The crime which bankrupts men and nations is that of turning aside from one’s main purpose to serve a job here and there.” One of the “jobs” I have served for the past years is helping to write this blog. It’s been a fruitful experience that has cemented my friendships with some amazing writers and brought us into contact with wonderful readers in the vast blogosphere. It has also made me reflect on my beliefs about writing. But now it’s time to back off from my engagement. The blog and this space for it will still exist – so keep reading! –  but it will take a different form in the New Year. My plan is to visit this space from time to time, but I will no longer be in a regular rotation of blog writers. Instead I will be in Vermont in January! Did I mention I love the snow? I had always imagined myself attending college in New England; it’s one of life’s little ironies that it took me well into my fifth decade to do it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2012 9:15 AM

    We will miss your regular posts, but are so excited for you to start your MFA! Good luck, and be sure to let us know how it is going from time to time on the blog.

  2. December 17, 2012 2:26 PM

    This is a bittersweet post for me, Gretchen. I’m excited and happy for you regarding the new experiences you have before you and, yet, sad that our connection will be loosened. If you fail to keep your promise to visit this space from time to time, be assured you’ll be hearing from me. Best of luck.

  3. December 31, 2012 2:56 PM

    Gretchen, I am in my mid-fifties and feel strongly about the need to focus rather than be “an ant with small burdens.” What an apt description! As we embark on a New Year, I will take a mini-retreat to help me decide exactly HOW I am going to focus in 2013. Kudos to you for following your passion. Best of luck!

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