Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Blog: How Writing a Book Has Changed Me by Andi Cumbo

Thanks to a great conversation during the recent AWP conference, I am happy to publish guest blog posts by Andi Cumbo and Margaret Rozga. Look for our writing exchanges on each other’s blogs this month and next. You might be interested in my recent post at Andilit, Be Your Own Writing Coach.

First up here is Andi Cumbo. I was happy to meet her and spend hours talking about writing when we were teaching at George Mason University. Andi is a writer, editor, and writing teacher living in Central Virginia. Currently, she is writing a book about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she was raised and about her process of coming to know them and understand the legacy of slavery in the United States. She blogs daily at Andilit.

How Writing a Book Has Changed Me
by Andi Cumbo

I didn’t think this would happen. Despite all the times I’ve quoted Didion – “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.” – I didn’t really imagine that writing a book would change me fundamentally.

But it has.

I now understand that the process of writing is long and more arduous than I ever could have imagined. While I have always known writing was hard, the process of writing a book has shown me that it takes a level of patience and fortitude that I didn’t know I possessed.

I now know how to give myself grace because this is an arduous and long road to travel. I don’t beat myself up (as much) when I don’t write as much as I want in a day, and I don’t feel the need to finish something every day.

I now have learned to show grace to other writers because as much as I believe writing requires daily practice, I also know that sometimes life does not allow the kind of schedule that is ideal.

I now know that discipline is fundamental to my writing practice. I can’t rely on a whim or “the muse” to push me to write. This is my job, and I have to honor it as such.

Most importantly, I now own that I am a writer. It used to be very hard for me to say that; I felt like I was faking it. But  now, when people ask me what I do, I say, “I’m a writer,” and I know it’s true.

When I started this project just a year ago, I thought I would come through this year with a book in hand.  I’m well on my way to that outcome, it’s true, but the journey – as it seems it is always the case – has brought me so much more.  It has brought me my identity and the grace to accept myself.

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