On Being Pushed

Photo courtesy of Zack Wilson

Photo courtesy of Zack Wilson

So, it looks like all of March went by without me posting to this blog. Classic me.

I have been writing, though. I’m still working on an overhaul of a middle grade novel. And while I know what I must do, actually sitting down to work on it can be daunting. Also, real life is constantly getting in the way – from work (Parent Teacher Conferences, Report Cards) to family (kids, man, always needing stuff,) to having to finally clean the house because it has become a source of stress.

With all of this other stuff going on, I wasn’t finding as much time for writing as I would have liked. Which is why our writing retreat to Sarah’s Boss Cabin couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I was reunited with my Hamline MFAC graduating class for a weekend of writing, something I desperately needed. We workshopped each other and we went all in, reading 50-100 pages and providing about an hour’s worth of feedback. There’s something incredibly energizing about working with people who speak your language (and it doesn’t hurt that everyone is super awesome and fun to boot.)

After providing feedback, Jennifer made us set a short-term goal for the writing weekend, and a long term goal for finishing our projects. Zack set up a spreadsheet so that we could track our word counts. We’ve been encouraging each other online. So far it’s worked for me. I’ve been getting up at five in the morning to get some words down before work.

It’s about a nine hour drive to the cabin for me, so I found an app that would read the google docs from my phone through my car stereo system. While it wasn’t perfect (it pronounced the word “pieces” as if we were in Italy – and my friends seemed to use that word a lot in their manuscripts,) it was a decent way to get the reading done. I was struck by how well-crafted each story was. My only quarrel with them was the fact that they weren’t  yet finished. I wanted to know what happens next. I do believe that many of these manuscripts will eventually be published and out in the world, like Sarah’s book, Assassin’s Heart, which I of course forgot to bring so that it could be signed (I also forgot my fitbit and my freaking computer, which I stressed about until it turned out not to be a big deal at all – thanks Jen!)

The writing retreat was an absolute success, and I was reminded of how important community is for writers. Writing is hard, because you actually have to write. And a lot of times you will write stuff that goes nowhere. There’s no guarantee that anybody will publish what you write. But you do it anyway. Because you have to. Because you get itchy if you go too long without writing. It’s nice to have cheerleaders. Maybe essential.

It is also essential that I crush my friends with my word count. Let’s go get it.

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Josh Hammond writes things. He has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University.

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