My DIY MFA: Running Into the New Year

Happy New Year, friend.

Once again, I am sitting at my little writing desk on New Year’s Day, bristling with the fear that 2022 will be yet another year when I fail to do what I say I’ll do.

Sitting at my little desk, thinking about all my old promises….

i am running into a new year

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twentysix and thirtysix
even thirtysix but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me

—Lucille Clifton, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir (1969-1980)

I am forty-one years and fifteen days old.

It’s late in the afternoon on January 1st, and it’s been almost a decade since I published my first short story, followed quickly by a second.

I remember feeling like my life had just begun, that it–whatever “it” is–was happening.

I was living in Portland, Oregon and I was in a sweet little writing group. I had an idea. I had an idea of who I was, and I had an idea for a short story. The lovely people in the sweet little writing group liked the idea–the idea of the short story–and so did I, and one day I realized with delight and apprehension: “This is not a short story. This is a long, long story. I think I’m going to write a novel.”

“You can do this,” said the lovely people.

“I think I can do this,” I thought.

I promised I would. This was 2015. April 13th. A Monday and raining probably, it being Portland and back when we used to have a traditional Pacific Northwest springtime. I promised myself.

And yet, here I am. Novel-less. (Not a Novelist.)

Insert compelling, relatable story about self-doubt and self-sabotage, anxiety and depression, inertia and indifference, and a global pandemic and my 9-5 and social media and watching TV shows I’ve already watched again and again and and and and and…

And all my old promises.

And all the things I said about myself.

No Matter. Try Again.

It will be hard, like the poet says. To let go of what I said about myself when I was sixteen and twentysix and thirtysix.

Especially thirtysix.

And yet, here I am, again.

It’s late in the afternoon on January 1st. Earlier today, I made a hot water bottle and a mug of sweet milky tea and wrote my Morning Pages. I got a giggle out of a writing prompt about new year’s resolutions. It was uncomfortable sometimes; the sentences were wooden and brittle and I felt self-conscious and a bit silly.

But, in the middle of it all, halfway across the world, my sister had a baby and I became an aunt, and it was wondrous, and what had once been unimaginable was oh so here and happening, and for a brief moment–childless but expectant and pregnant with my own version of possibility–I had an idea of who I was again.

I’ve tidied my desk. I’ve made a spreadsheet to track my writing practice. I have a focused reading list related to my work-in-progress. I’m taking some online writing classes. I’m trying things. Piece by piece, I’m still cobbling together my own DIY MFA.

I told my partner that if the door is closed, that means something.

That was the hardest part. I have a hard time closing the door on the people and practicalities of the real world.

(i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me.)

And, now, I find myself telling you the same thing I told him:

“I know you’ve heard me say this a thousand times before, so part of me wasn’t going to mention anything…. I’m embarrassed by all my old promises and the unrealized resolutions of so many Januaries. I’m sick of the sound of my voice saying the same thing over and over and over again. And I’m scared. I’m scared that suddenly it will be December and I’ll be looking back on yet another year in which I didn’t even try.

But I’m going to try again. I’m going to try to try. And I wasn’t going to say anything but, for some reason I can’t explain, I need you to know that I haven’t forgotten myself, that I think I’m going to write a novel, that I think I can do this, that I am running into a new year with my heart and mind and arms wide open and a door that will sometimes be closed, okay?

Deborah Rose Reeves, January 1st 2022

3 thoughts on “My DIY MFA: Running Into the New Year”

  1. I will share with you what my mother says to me when I say I will never write again: that’s like saying you won’t breathe again. I think we are always breathing as long as we are living, alive, and so it goes with those of us who write. Yes, one can learn to breathe better, more consciously, even dabble in the Ujjayi breath; but you have always been breathing…

    1. I think you’re right Annie, and sometimes I’m able to see it that way myself. Other days, not so much haha… What I do know is that these characters and story are never far from my mind, so even though I haven’t been getting all that much on paper the past few years, there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve been writing it in my head and just need to commit to sitting down and wrestling it out of me….

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