Manchester/Bath UK Trip Journal Day 1
Chicago, IL Airport
I am trying to avoid the inevitable fate I experience when I blog, Gentle Reader, and that is the admonishing tl;dr. Too long; didn’t read is quite the declaration when one is pouring one’s heart out on the internet (admittedly, a terrible place to do such a task), and it represents a suggestion as well as a disrespect. It suggests that one must write to a specific audience. That one must consider all audience when one writes. But I think instead that I write to a specific audience I have created in my mind, one that wants to read what I’ve written, no matter how long it really is.
I feel verbose today in a way I have not felt in some time. I have felt stymied by words, unable to fully develop myself through my voice because my voice is now so hinged on PRODUCT rather than PROCESS. That is to say, part of me, the part that has become a professional writer, both academic and creative, has become too invested in the PRODUCT of writing. The end result, whether that be a novel or an article or even a blog entry, has become more important to me than the PROCESS of writing, the enjoyment of getting to the next moment in my text.
I love the discovery of writing. I have always appreciated what it means to sit down and explore a world, an idea, a research question through the PROCESS of writing. In fact, for so long, the PRODUCT was inconsequential, a natural end to a long and enjoyable PROCESS that I longed to experience in full. Or, as my Darling Husband recently inquired of me, “Since when are you afraid of rewriting?”
The PRODUCT has made me afraid of rewriting. Not of rewriting itself, but of not having a perfect finished PRODUCT. I have breezed past the PROCESS as something to be dealt with by someone else, for someone else’s life. I was all about PRODUCT, PRODUCT, PRODUCT. I was writing novels that would be written, read, and sold, and I was writing articles that would be written, read, reviewed, and published.
Yet that elusive book contract has not come. And while I have plenty of articles, even an edited volume, in the pipeline, I have only three currently in print. I have become, it is safe to say, obsessed with PRODUCT.
We are a PRODUCT driven culture, and I capitalize the word not only to show its importance but also the weight it carries. But notice I also capitalized PROCESS because I want to remind myself that both are equally important. There is no PRODUCT without PROCESS. And there is no enjoying of PRODUCT without enjoyment of the PROCESS.
Here’s my confession: I love to write. I do, Gentle Reader, with all my heart and soul. Since I was a kid, old enough to understand what it meant, I have wanted to be an Author. I have wanted, specifically, to be a Novelist, writing my words so that others can read them and comprehend them and enjoy them. I have wanted to instruct, inform, entertain, and edify. I want, like Veruca Salt, the world, the whole world, and I want it now.
But I can’t have it now, and it makes me sad and angry all at once. Is there a word in the English language to encompass sad and angry at the same time? Frustrated, perhaps. I am frustrated that my dream has not come true. That I want, so badly, and I can’t have. Not yet. Perhaps not ever.
My life has been a series of weigh stations, of stops and starts and waiting, waiting, waiting. Finish high school. Finish college. Finish my Master’s. Wait to get into a Ph.D. program. Finish my Ph.D. Wait to get a tenure-track job. Wait to get tenure. Wait, wait, wait. I have become frustrated with the slow movement of my life. I am thirty-seven years old, and I still have wants and desires like the child I was, thirty years ago.
Do we ever outgrow our dreams? What does it mean if we do? I feel like longing is an integral part of my life. I can’t imagine what it is to be satisfied with everything. Not that I’m dissatisfied. Far from it. I have a beautiful life, with a great job, wonderful husband, fun dogs, fantastic family, worthy friends.
But, I want the world, I want the whole world, and I want it now.
It’s not the money, because anyone who goes into writing expecting to be rich is kidding herself.
And it’s not the fame, because I’d be just as happy publishing under a pseudonym as I would be my own name.
Is it just WANT? Does that deserve to be capitalized like PRODUCT and PROCESS? Is it me, never outgrowing the WANT of childhood? Or is there something more that clings to these concerns of PRODUCT, ignoring the beauty and journey of PROCESS?
This trip I am currently on makes me think of PROCESS because I so rarely stop to enjoy the journey, the PROCESS of getting from point A to point B. So many people have asked me if I’m excited about my trip, and I’ve answered them in various ways:
“No, I’m going by myself.”
“No, I wish I had a real spring break to rest.”
“No, I am going to do work.”
But can’t that be an enjoyable PROCESS? Why can’t I experience joy about going to England, my favorite place on earth? Why can’t I experience joy about the act of research itself, about two of the writers I love most in this world? Because I’m obsessed with the finished PRODUCT, about how soon I can be done with what needs to be done. About whether this research trip will end in a publishable article I can use to get tenure.
Having An Adventure is enjoying the journey, is it not? Experiencing joy in getting there is as important as getting there. I need to allow myself—yes, Gentle Reader, allow myself, because I know I am my own worst enemy—room for joy, for possibility, for the journey.