This month, I feel very lucky to be joining a writing workshop of 8 of the most inspired/inspiring women I have ever worked with. We are working with Victoria Lawson, [who has more credits to her name than are even worth mentioning here] in a Writing for Publication workshop. The final product of this class will be a submission to a journal article. I have chosen to aim high, and am going to submit an article to the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Wish me luck.
Vicky’s advice to us is to write every day. Don’t put it off. Make space for it. Protect that space.
There are a million and one excuses not to write. One of our colleagues just had a baby – surely that is reason enough to put the pen down [or laptop, as it were]. Others have relationship concerns, physical ailments, teaching conflicts and expectations, discomfort with the journal writing process… there are a million and one reasons.
But, today, I am sitting with one that I have not yet figured out how to navigate.
I cannot talk myself out of this excuse. I cannot just nudge myself, close a browser, turn off my internet, eliminate distractions. This is one that I have confronted throughout the year, and has reared its head, hidden and haunted me in various ways for the last 9 months. When I was first beginning to write my thesis, a dear friend of mine was brutally murdered. His murder goes unsolved, to this day, and it probably forever will.
At the time, I found solace in writing. The thesis was a project I could devote myself to, with a clear purpose, clear deadline, and clear outcome. I would write. I would argue my points. I would tell a compelling story. I would defend the thesis. I would eventually publish.
Well, here I am, trying to complete that final step by writing a journal article drawing on one of the primary chapters of the thesis. Except that today, [MLK Jr.’s birthday, Obama’s second inauguration, a ‘day off’ which is supposed to be wildly productive], I am feeling blinded by lingering wisps of grief. Tendrils of my memories of Sam are pulling at me, away from the thoughts of nonprofits, discourses of deservingness and subjectivity. Towards future memories, yet to be created, where his absence will be felt glaringly: the first of our friends’ weddings, reunions, eventual babies and families, his brother’s graduation.
So how to reconcile these? There are a million reasons not to write. I suppose I should appreciate that even in this grief, in these memories, are encouragements to write, even if not for today’s stated purpose: this journal article.
I shall attempt to find a bit of focus, a trait that my dear friend proudly lacked. His joyous, frenetic attitude brought unpredictable adventures, projects and obstacles. Perhaps a scattered brain is ok in this moment. It might take me to new places in my writing for which I cannot plan. Or, I will just go home and knit and watch movies. Both of these seem potentially ok, though one is more acceptable in the path of academia. Though as I’ve always said, my life is not about me as an academic. I hold multiple roles in multiple communities. One of those communities is about 3,000 miles away, continuing to navigate this same grief as we hold it everyday.