My Misspent Youth

Back when I was a wee lass of twenty nothing, I thought I wanted to be an academic. I yearned to stride through libraries with the strength of purpose displayed by Paternal Clause. I loved the smell of books at sunrise. I wanted to sit and write in an office in the middle of a peaceful green campus. I probably wanted the tweed jacket as well, because I’m like that.

But, surprisingly enough, practicality prevailed (if you can call getting an MFA in poetry practical. Ha!). My grades weren’t good enough, my attention span wasn’t good enough, and I just didn’t care enough. Now that I’m a seasoned copyeditor, I see the ways in which my writing style could never fit in an academic setting.

I’m editing a thesis. Again. And I’m realizing that thinking about thinking is not my cup of shade-grown fair-trade stovetop espresso. My style is not linear. When I read my work to a roomful of students they remarked on how well I wove together my thoughts, jumping around, but keeping all the balls in the air. This time. (You will pardon the mixed metaphor. Thank you.)

“How do you do that?” they asked. How could I not? was the answer. Anyone who has spent 2.4 seconds on my blog realizes that I can’t hold on to a linear storyline to save my life. Just read the last paragraph. So this post is dedicated to doing what you do as well as you fucking can.

How do you make your quirks work for you?

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13 responses to “My Misspent Youth

  1. Hmm, that’s a good question. I have an unoriginal mind with a wide dark streak running through it, which is probably a decent set-up for a writer of commercial fiction. I couldn’t write literary work, and that’s not even about the language so much as the limitations of my own conventional mind.

      • I agree. I’m not sure the line between literary and commercial fiction is quite as clear as you might think.

        And I thought of you when I added the question, because I think you ask good questions in your post, and I sometimes phone it in.

      • I agree, the line isn’t clear at all. Commercial fiction is ordinary people leading extraordinary lives, literary is extraordinary people leading ordinary lives. Beyond that is simply a matter of the writer’s individual talent.

        The problem for me in literary fiction would be in trying to conjure an extraordinary person from my conventional writerly mind. I think you have to be working from a higher plane in order to pull that off.

      • I hear you on commercial fiction, but I’d have to disagree on literary fiction. I think it’s ordinary or extraordinary (depending on the book) people living extraordinarily well-told lives.

  2. Apparently, by bouncing from topic to topic like a perpetually-fueled ping-pong ball in a small space, until people start watching to see where I’ll hit next. And lots of footnotes so I’ll stop getting tangled in my own side comments (It’ll work on day, you’ll see).

    (snagged Thieftaker–thanks for the suggestion!)

    • You’re welcome. It’s dragging a little toward the end, but that just might be my own impatience. I’m still enjoying it. And while we’re on the topic of mythic fiction based in Boston, you should also read Spiral Hunt and the rest of the trilogy by Margaret Ronald.

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