that time I left writing school, and what I’m doing now

Last week I made a really hard decision. There wasn’t a question presented in front of me, forcing me to make a choice. But it’s one that I feel is probably going to be for the best, despite how much I hate the decision I made.

As of last Tuesday, I’m taking a leave from the University of Chicago.

It’s just for the quarter, but well, it means I won’t finish my workshop requirements until the fall. Or really, the end of the fall term. I’ll start my tutorial in January 2014. As to when I’ll finish everything up? Some time after that. (I’m still sort of confused about how long the tutorial is… I think it’s a quarter and half…)

The decision was hard to make. But I was fairly certain, given my health and everything else going on, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the chapters of reading, plus short stories to read, plus reading and critiquing my peers’ work in margin notes and a written review, as well as keep up with my own writing and prepping for a paper and presentation on an element of craft. The course would absolutely be great had it been my first quarter. But for my final workshop, I want to focus primarily on my writing, and less on the craft of writing elements that we go over every single quarter. (Luckily the past workshop realized there were no new students and we focused on writing and pushing our work.)

I’ll admit, you really never stop studying craft. Especially the more you read. But it was primarily the workload that I couldn’t take. I knew I wouldn’t be able to produce the quality of work I knew I was capable of. It wasn’t fair to me, or the rest of the class.

Last week, my first night out of class, I sat and had a pity party for myself. It probably included sushi. It definitely included me throwing one of my text books across the room. Obviously, I’m handling my frustration and disappointment well.

I promised myself after officially withdrawing, that I would still continue to work on my writing. Taking this many months off from writing would not do me any good. However, as I searched for a possible replacement workshop, I couldn’t really find any. So I’m on my own to hold myself accountable for producing work.

I’m rethinking my writing goals. Rather than in terms of hours—something that generally stressing me out and has me looking more at the clock than the pages before me—I’m setting goals of quantity. This weekend I got a good first-page start on my novel. (Sometimes, even if you know the story, you don’t know exactly how it should start.) And I also wrote a new short story for my collection/final project. (So now there are 5 stories.) My next goal is to revisit a story of mine about a radio and work on that one. From there it’s just writing, writing, and more writing. Pressing on.

For the first time in a really long time, I’m not letting myself get caught up with distractions or other obligations. I’m not letting writing get moved to the back burner. It’s going to stay right up in front where it belongs.