Reaching for the Stars, One Step at a Time

Last weekend I participated in a writing workshop  at Ikaros Restaurant in Baltimore. Rafael Alvarez and Rosalia Scalia served as co-facilitators and offered the participants a wealth of great information about writing as a craft, more specifically, writing fiction and nonfiction. That’s why I took the workshop–I want to expand beyond poetry and interviews and begin to write profiles and stories.

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Of course,  the teachers assigned us extensive homework.  Lots of reading, lots of exercises to flex our writing muscles and stretch our skills.  Before the class had ended,  my inner voice started chattering and making plans for how I could accomplish my goals.  Like many inner voices, mine pushes me to achieve as fast as I can—–and to get moving NOW!  I call her my inner rabbit.

Have you ever watched rabbits move?  They don’t scamper in a straight line when they want to go somewhere–they flip, do side-twists, and sometimes even hop  in circles.  Sometimes they get startled and stop, sitting in one place and twitching their noses while looking side-to-side for danger. Rabbits are fast, but not all of their movements seem purposeful.

Think of the hare in the Aesop’s Fable “The Tortise and the Hare.” When I close my eyes, I see the hare scampering ahead, rushing headlong, sure he will win the race. And I used to think that being like the hare or the rabbit was the only way to achieve my goal. How would my inner rabbit’s behavior manifest as far as achieving my writing goals?

First, my inner rabbit would look at all of the books that the teachers recommended and buy them, preferably that day. She’d schedule herself to  read a book a week–which Rosalia recommended–and finish four books in a month. My inner rabbit has a lot of catching up to do. She’d read novels and text books, rewrite her stories and use the model of one of the masters to help her. She’d look for a new writing group and meet with them once a month. She’d take more classes, go to more conferences, enter a few contests….and keep working on her poetry as well.

But I know from experience that after a few weeks, my rabbit-approach would leave me breathless and frustrated. The initial rush of enthusiasm invariably withers after a few weeks of intense effort. More books unread, more papers shoved into the recycling, or put into a folder and forgotten.

As much as I love rabbits and enjoy watching them scamper and play, they make poor role models for achieving goals.  But I know that my inner-tortise can rein me in and get me focused. Instead of buying lots of books, I looked at my collection and decided which ones I need to read and annotate. I bought two classic novels and have a partner to read them with. And I selected one short story to use as a model to help me rewrite the draft  that I shared with the writing class.

What’s my timeline? How fast do I think that I’ll accomplish my goal of getting a story published? I’m giving myself a year to work on my craft and absorb all that I’ll be learning. I have a hard time running anyway, but I’m a strong walker!

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