an austrian colleague is reviewing the draft of my corrections before i send it to the examiner to discover whether it is wildly off-base. in his reply regarding how quickly he planned to respond with edits, this colleague noted that what i have written looked "exciting."
i'm prone to exaggeration for story-telling purposes but it is actually an accurate statement to say that this is the most effusive praise regarding my work in the last three years and eight months.
i'm trying to savor it. trying to allay the anxiety that, if what i have produced this summer is not what the examiners wanted, then i've absolutely no words left to give.
since may, i have written laughably, ludicrously many words. which is saying a lot for someone with a tendency to over-write and then pare.
in being a better editor than a writer, things tend to billow and contract, as huge chunks of text are tossed aside, sloughing the detritus produced when i was writing my way to a point and saying the same thing in ten different ways in an effort to find the most efficient approach. that is par for the course.
producing 20,000 new, useable words in a three month span, that is not.
while i thrive on impossibility and operate best in a realm where i'm doing things people have repeatedly told me cannot be done, i also realize the ways in which this approach is neither awesome nor particularly kind.
when i went back to therapy last summer, with all of my "narrative problems," i used the word "blistering."
and the therapist reeled back. a vivid word, she called it. an accurate one, i said.
i once had a professor who was obsessed with how we lived in an age where everyone expects to be "spoon-fed." perhaps it was williams. it sounds like williams. the man responsible for all the scholarships i won as an undergrad and yet who never once gave me an A on a paper. a man who, in some cruel twist of fate, the mississippi state english department repeatedly assigned to the class i was required to take for graduation in the year that i was required to take it, ensuring that he and i were stuck together for the full four years.
i remember, when applying for graduate school, very deliberately asking for recommendation letters from him only for the lesser tier schools- the ones i didn't really want- for fear that he'd hold forth with an indictment of my dangling participles and i'd be denied entry.
as i write this, his words clang about my mind. but it is not that i want to be spoon-fed. my out-sized ego regarding my ability to write and debo's constant assurances that i am a genius are adequately sustaining. what i doubt is my ability to convey thought.
the most consistent feedback within my writing life has, since college, been that my work is beautifully written. i am a beautiful writer. i accept and believe this. (my father would warn here: don't go and get the big head! he needn't worry: the steady drip of rejection and the short-livedness of all victories in a writing life renders ridiculous this concern.)
i've a sneaking suspicion that being a beautiful writer is like being a pretty girl.
in college, my papers in every class except williams' received As, and they nearly all also carried the criticism that they were "vague."
this criticism, in and of itself, was vague and i use this as an example in teaching now, telling students to ask for clarification of feedback they do not understand. because there's a chance i could have avoided an undergraduate career of vague papers had i just once asked what that meant in the context of my work. as i didn't, it remains a worry.
last march, an agent replied that my work, as presented, was "unconvincing."
there is a tendency to focus on the negative, even on just the single most negative word, and to let it reverberate ad infinitum.
the last feedback i received on the corrections was that it was "readable and seems thorough." immediately, my field of vision narrowed in on that seems. the expanse between something seeming thorough and actually being thorough is vast and treacherous. they difference between well done, and hey now, go do it again. an expanse in which all of my insecurity has, inevitably, set up camp.
AV and i've joked that when this is all over, we're going to write a daily mail exposé on the critical/creative PhD. we won't. because one cannot burn that bridge, but oh my god. there comes a point when one would like to set fire to something, if only pages and words, to take the edge off the seeming endlessness of the ongoing ordeal.
how many of the things we do would we still do if we knew their full difficulty at the outset?
still, even as i complain, i know. given the chance, i'd do nothing differently. this is the way it needed to be. this is the way shit gets done.
and that is, in the end, life. if it wasn't this, it'd be something else. i'd be doing something else somewhere else and likely still whining that, with each passing morning, noon, and night, i never manage to get so far as i'd like or do so well as i'd want. it is what it is.
i am reminded that women's shoes fit so poorly that an entire industry has arisen around blister relief.