staying in


I’m staying in today. I canceled my workout at the gym, and cleared the entire day to…be at home by myself. I just want, need some comfort.

I’m making a big vat of soup. I left the house once–in my pajamas–to go to the neighborhood store and fetch myself a bottle of apple cider for the soup.

Otherwise, I’m in. The sunlight filtering through the windows is a glorious golden color, and my dogs bark intermittently at squirrels in the yard. I plan on spending the entire day in pajamas, sitting on the couch, maybe writing (my novella? my novel? It is, after all, the eve of NaNoWriMo), maybe reading, maybe doing some thinking, some imagining.



I had the echocardiogram–I got to hold my breath a kazillion times as I watched the ultrasound of my heart–the valves flapping rhythmically and regularly. (“Hold your breath! Okay-now let it out slowly. Breathe regularly–okay, short breath, hollllld.  Okay!  Now hold your breath and bear DOWN!” It seems they were measuring the oxygenation of my blood?) There’s something about watching your insides on a screen–always fascinating, trying to sync up what’s happening on the outside with the interior organs. They pushed saline bubbles through my vein, to see if there’s still a leak in my heart…boy oh boy, I got severely lightheaded when they did that. SEVERELY. I asked if that was normal. I got a noncommittal answer–“Good thing you’re lying down–still dizzy?” I won’t hear back with an update for a week.

Workshop went okay. Half the class loved my story. Half the class found it overly ambitious but still seemed to like it. The Famous Writer workshop instructor HATED it. HATED it. Wrote such a scathing critique that she pulled me aside during the break and asked me if I was okay with it. She seemed apologetic, even.

But not to worry. I’ve had worse feedback experiences before, to great benefit. That’s what I told her–I’ve been workshopping a long time. I’m ok.

What she didn’t know was that I wasn’t so much hurt as totally amused and confused. What this particular Famous Writer HATES…another Famous Writer LOVES! This is the same story that my thesis director, an incredible writer who has a short story of wonderful acclaim LIKES a LOT (she said so, and I believe her because she wasn’t pulling any punches with the other stories). Sooo confusing. Especially with the contradicting feedback coming within a couple of weeks of each other.

Okay. Back to sitting on the couch, thinking, imagining, writing.



Filed under Life, MFA, Writing

11 responses to “staying in

  1. Re the conflicting feedback: isn’t that how all writing is, though? One person’s favorite book ever, is another person’s trash. Even among highly regarded published stuff. There are many Famous Writers whose work I can’t stand, and others whom I love that make others say “meh.” I think it’s pretty normal and just shows how subjective writing (and reading) is.

  2. Amy

    This is one of those big things you learn in workshop (and sometimes a year after leaving a MFA program)–most feedback is completely useless, or completely wrong, and it can really get in the way. Finding a reader you trust, and that really understands what you are about is the only way. (hearing you describe workshop makes me cringe.) Stay in! Take a breath. You know what your story needs and doesnt need.

  3. Oh! I am not staying in to recuperate from workshop–I’m staying in because my hubby’s out of town and I hate that he’s gone and it makes me feel insular and anxious (ever since 9/11 I’ve hated him flying…and this year, everything feels jinxed in general so I’m doubly anxious).

    But–yes, I am pondering my writing. This giant polar clash in opinion on my short story has totally enlightened me. I kind of like it–I think Hemingway (I think it’s Hemingway) once said that a story isn’t worth writing unless you piss at least on person off.

    (and this story did piss at least one person off).

  4. hyunjini

    that’s exactly how i see it, like in your Hemingway quote. I think your story is a success if it evoked such strong emotions from your readers. nobody HATES a boring, not credible, or terrible story, they just wouldn’t care about the story, at all. way to go!

    jp, i don’t know what your policy is in sharing your stories with your blog friends, but i really want to read them!

  5. hyunjini: thank you for the encouragement. we writers need all we can get!

    I had a fabulous “day off”–I ended up doing no fiction writing (and did feel a little guilty), but it was just a good “blank” day–one where I just stared at the wall, laid on the couch, and rested.

  6. chaesq

    That’s the beauty of feedback, hm? It’s valuable, but subjective, but COULD be objective, but probably isn’t, and is still useful or at least will/might be at some point in the future, and we sort of wince at receiving it but would not grow without it. OY.

    I love the staying in days. Freelance lawyering allows me to go out when I want and stay in when I want. And when it’s a long or hard day, ain’t nuthin’ like staying in. I recently bought a Dutch oven and have been taste-testing myself to the perfect Beef Stew. It’s a lovely thing. Cheers to your warm, soupy staying-in!

  7. chaesq: feedback is an interesting thing, with its interpersonal dynamics! i, like many people, think the workshop format is flawed–you’re receiving feedback from peers (so there’s a bit of competition there), it’s not entirely objective, etc., etc. but it’s the best “working model” out there thus far, and the stuff from which most if not all, MFA programs are made of.

    like Amy says above–the best thing for me is to have a trusted reader, and working one on one with a good peer or mentor. of course, that is flawed as well. 😛

    writing, in the end, is a lonely activity–you have to go about it alone and trust your instinct, in the end, and hope it resonates.

    Freelance lawyering–probably the only way to be a lawyer and have flexible time!!!!! My brother is a lawyer, he’s always at work (he happens to like it though).

    Anyway–I had another stay-in day today. I must stop–!

  8. Ditto on all the comments about feedback. In some ways it’s refreshing to hear conflicting responses, because then it’s clear how subjective it all is. I’m doing today what you did on Thursday – canceled everything to sleep and sit here on the couch and read and write. So nice to have a day off.

  9. Eve

    This reminds me of the time I participated in an extemporaneous writing contest for a college scholarship. I was competing against other 17-year-olds from my region for a four-year scholarship at this particular university.

    After the “on your marks, get ready, GO!” part, I wrote like mad in the 60 minutes allotted. We then had an hour and a half’s break while our essays were judged.

    Out of around 200 entries, the main judge picked out one essay for scathing criticism and mind-numbing rebuke. Of course, she chose mine. She hated it. She scoffed at it, laughed at it, and had the other participants roaring with laughter at my work. The only saving grace was that she read my number, not my name. I will never forget feeling the waves of shame and indignation roll over me, wave after wave.

    The funny thing about it was that I found out later that my essay was a winning essay. I was offered a four-year academic scholarship to that school, which I declined. I never wanted to learn from a woman who would use words the way she had.

    Anyway, my English teacher told me some years later, when my first book was in press, that the judge had hated my work so because she believed it wasn’t my own work, and that no 17-year-old could have written what I did extemporaneously.

    I tell that story so that you can know for sure that your infamous writer workshop instructor is a flaming idiot who is insanely jealous of your ability. The next time you go to the workshop, flip her off for me in some surreptitious way. You know, just itch your nose or something with the middle finger.

  10. It just goes to show that writing ain’t an exact science. 🙂

  11. Bustopher: I hope you had a great day off!

    Eve: your encouragement is so wonderful. I’d like to *think* that my instructor secretly admires my work…but I did learn that whatever I wrote was somehow provocative, which is waaay better than no one giving a sh*t. (The scenarios for story reactions are: 1) Everyone loves it…2) People hate it….and worse of all, 3) no one cares). It was a very lively critique discussion, and an impassioned criticism from my instructor, so I take it as not all the way bad.

    Kimchihead: yep. I *hate* David Eggers’ writing, and yet he has a huge fan base, and has won his share of awards. And I love Murakami, and there are plenty of people who don’t engage with his writing at all.

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