The First Few Weeks and the Purple Dress

I finished the coursework for my degree in English and Medieval Studies on April 12, 2018. That was just over a month ago. Since finishing, I’ve been trying to find my new post-undergrad routine. Here’s how it’s going:

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(Belfountain Conservation Area 2017)

The first week or so was a bit of a crap-shoot in terms of writing. At the beginning of April, when I was writing my twenty-five page, seminar paper on Cecily Neville, all I wanted was to write creatively. I wanted it so badly that it became the almost-heavenly light at the end of the academic tunnel. I was so consumed with the pursuit of finding writing time, that I didn’t exactly know what to do with it when I finally got it after handing in my last assignment.

Instead of sitting down at my desk to put some words on the page, I went shopping. Call me a hopeless victim of our capitalist society, but I went on a gleeful, week-long hunt for the perfect purple dress to wear to my graduation. As I was thumbing through the racks in the second Hudson’s Bay store I had visited that day, I thought to myself: What if I just take a break and start writing after my convocation in June? Even in my shopping delirium, I had the sense to know that was a bad idea. But I figured that a few more days of ignoring my writing wouldn’t hurt. I’m pleased to report that I did find the dress later that week, but as I rolled into week two of post-undergrad life, I knew that my approach–or lack thereof–to writing wasn’t going to get me very far.

So why the shopping distraction? What stopped me from writing?

I think the answer to this is fear. I know this sounds trite, but stay with me for a minute. In my mind, I’ve taken a pretty big risk. I’ve decided to purposely take time off to write. I’m not quitting my part-time job or anything radical like that, but I’m not pursuing further education or full-time work for at least a year. To some, that alone is a radical decision. Because I forfeited some good financial opportunities and made some “radical” choices in order to give myself time to write, I started to feel the pressure building.

In order to “make good” on my writing time, I felt as though I had to produce good work and be “successful” in order to make up for those opportunities I turned down. I felt as though I had something to prove to everyone in my life, including myself. And, I was afraid that I would fail. In a lot of ways, it was easier not to bother starting.

I’ve been writing for a little while, so this kind of fear was familiar to me, and I knew that I had to start somewhere. I was not going to waste my whole year of dedicated writing time watching Netflix and shopping. So, sometime in that second week, I forced myself to sit down at my desk and open the document that I’m working on rewriting. The first few days, I didn’t do much other then read over what I had already rewritten. I eased my way into a loose writing routine. Instead of worrying about being successful or if I was going to get enough done in the year, I just worried about finishing the vignette that I was working on. For the rest of that week, I just kept sitting down and working on what was in front of me.

I still haven’t quite hit my stride, but I’m making progress towards establishing a writing routine. Everyday it feels a bit more normal to sit down and write. Everyday I look at the purple dress hanging in my closet and remind myself that writing is a game of patience. Success–whatever that means–is not mine (or anyone else’s, for that matter) to worry about right now. My job is to simply keep showing up and keep writing.

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