They say that Tiger Woods had to endure three years of an interrupted winning streak to learn a new swing. I get that, the whole self-challenge test. But since this is my year of gut-wrenching authenticity, I think it would be authentic of me to admit that I embrace new challenges while at the same time hating the sacrifice required for change. I like the idea of change better than the commitment to change. Or the isolation of it. I embraced going back to school to close up, shall we say, some gaping wounds in my education. But, as a writer, I wanted a new swing. I was giddy. I imagined school as fun and carefree, like when I was nineteen. I compare the change it brought into my life to the first time I jumped on a bike and climbed the first series of hills in my neighborhood. I dropped to the walk, retching, my clueless glow erased. I wheezed like a geezer, wishing I had carried my cell phone so that I could beg my husband to drive down and scoop me off the walk. School was like that. The same clueless expectancy lured me into the first residency; I hefted too many books into class, nearly wrenching my back. I struggled with petty changes, like trying to remember names and faces when I’m still the one whining at church that we all ought to wear name tags. Scholar-speak and publishing-speak are not the same language. I wasn’t bi-lingual. When asked by cohort members why I came back to school (isn’t publishing the goal?), I muttered that I wanted to embrace something new in my writing. I sounded lame. After the first residency, my resolve was weakening. My days as a reluctant scholar seeped into the wintry months of dissatisfaction and late night revisions and rising early. It didn’t matter that I had written for thirteen years. This was a do-over in the middle of life. A long literary winter. The story I wanted to write had to be chipped out of change. Some days I laid my head on my desk, whispering grumpy prayers, begging God for strength to finish and finish well. Finally, the exit interviews are coming and commencement is a week away. I can’t explain the melancholy. I have a new swing, finally. I’m glad winter is over.
Whisper Town is Patricia Hickman’s most recent release. Earthly Vows will release August 2006. Her thesis and Random House WIP is entitled The Painted Dress Diaries and will release some time in 2007. http://www.patriciahickman.com/