I’m delighted to be taking part in the Warm Fuzzies blogfest, the brainchild of Juliana Brandt. For the next four weeks, we’ll be blog-hopping like mad, making new friends and engaging in one of my favorite activities, community-building.
It’s strange, thinking back on my trajectory towards writer-dom. I’ve been scribbling stories for as long as I can remember, and when I was young, everyone knew that I was going to have a novel out one day. In junior high, my tome of fan fiction was circulated around the classroom each morning so everyone could read the latest chapter. Back then, the only question I received was, “So can I be in the story? Will you stick me in as a cameo somewhere?” As a result, my crazy, ridiculous, sprawling 350 page boy band fan fiction features bit walk-ons from roughly half the 8th grade class. 😛
Things shifted once I hit college, though, and I became focused on a career outside of writing, ‘cause everyone’s gotta have a day job, right? I discovered social justice and community organizing, the wonders of sociological theory, and the delights of research, and threw myself wholeheartedly into the fray. Oh, I still wrote — quite a bit, in fact — but it receded into the background, became the hobby I indulged in whenever I was struck by the muse, rather than one of my most defining attributes.
And then… graduate school happened. I found myself in a sociology PhD program at the ripe old age of 21, swamped and overwhelmed by the demands of coursework, my teaching assistantship, and my own ambitions for my research. I stopped writing. I stopped reading novels, swept up in this strange, bizarre, soul-deadening belief that all of my time should be spent working on Serious Matters — and novels, unless they are being dissected and ripped apart for sociological analysis, are most certainly not Serious Matters.
In a world dominated by such charming adages as “Publish or Perish” (and we’re talking scholarly, peer-reviewed articles here), one that is characterized by constant chatter about productivity and jumping crazy, flaming hoops in the hopes of one day earning a tenure-track position at a university, it is an understatement to say that graduate students learn quickly to feel an inordinate sense of guilt at pursuing things that won’t help them (1) finish their dissertations or (2) land a good job. Things, important things, those things that make us, y’know, human, fall by the wayside unless we’re careful.
I give you all this long, convoluted preface because I’m still on the fence about telling people that I’m working on a novel (well, 3, actually, with a novella waiting in the wings). I know there are plenty of people who will be dismissive (again, novel-writing, like reading, isn’t Serious Matters). And yet I do have a small group of friends who love books, and who understand the importance of having a life outside of the day-job. They’re the ones who have been the most supportive and enthusiastic, and who remind me that I can be both scholar and writer. They push me to keep going, and even though they think I’m slightly unhinged for deciding to juggle my MA thesis and a handful of novels, they encourage me to follow my passions.
So yay for community! Better yet, yay for the handful of folks to understand (or appreciate, at the very least) the strange combination of insanity, stubbornness, dedication, passion, masochism, and creativity required to pen a novel. Let the warm fuzzies begin!