20,000, overwhelmed

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I’ve been writing. A lot.

I’ve been trying not to judge myself too harshly. It’s progress to get anything done at all, and I’ve probably written 20,000 words since I committed to writing again a month or so ago. 20,000. Twenty THOUSAND.

I’m proud but… not. I don’t know. I’ve always been a fast reader. I can read a book in a day; I just often choose not to. Writing is similar. I can write very, very quickly. I can make coherent sentences all day long and not get bored. But sentences are just sentences. Meaning: when I say I can write all day long and not get bored, I mean I can spend a whole day translating what’s happening in my head into writing. “Translating” makes it sound important. It’s not. It’s more like transferring. If I spent all day, every day, transferring every thought in my head into writing, I’d have way more than 20,000 words. But none of it would mean anything.

The 20,000 words I wrote in March aren’t necessarily the kind of words I could’ve “transferred” straight from head to page, but they aren’t essays, either. I’m struggling to stay focused on one subject. I’m struggling to complete a draft. I’m struggling to care about a single thing long enough to even consider it a complete section. I know it’s victory enough to have written at all, to have maintained this excitement for a whole month. But I’m frustrated that my writing isn’t going anywhere. I’m not sure how I ever reigned myself in before.

Also, I’m cheating on creative nonfiction. I started buying short story anthologies and books of poetry. I started thinking horrible thoughts, like: what if I was only good because I was writing in a genre that not many people specialize in? What if I’m wasting my time trying to perfect the craft of the essay when real writers only care about fiction and poetry? What if being a good creative nonfiction writer means nothing at all?

I think it’s really just an issue of focus: I’m so excited to be writing again that I can’t even settle on a genre, let alone a topic within a given genre. I love creative nonfiction, but I’ve been away from poetry and fiction for just as long, and it’s so exciting to feel like I’m a part of this world again. Literary magazines are waiting in my mailbox when I come home from work. Each day I read short stories and poems and essays and I can barely finish one before finding another I want to start. It’s overwhelming.

I want to learn and forgive myself and write complete pieces all at the same time, and it feels impossible. It probably is. It’s only been a month.

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