I am fifteen and new to this town on the river. I know no one, and this lock-in at this random church is small and strange. There is a boy, one with a bland name and a crop of brunette hair and this smile that casts a spell so easily. I am not pretty; I am awkward. I do not know how to talk to boys, but this one talks to me. He assumes I know things; I play along. I do not know “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but I let him think I do. I remember the poem for many years after; I see the boy once or twice. He is lost in the Google sea, where bland names do not survive. I fall in love with TS Eliot, not this boy who I no longer even see clearly in memory.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
-TS Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
I used to think about TS Eliot in spring, but as 2016 draws to a close I keep returning to his works. I think they’re supposed to be depressing, but for me they’re more like these moments of memory, these evocative, mesmerizing turns of phrase and imagined worlds. As the dreariness of December falls, Eliot takes me to rose gardens and murky English streets and other times. Somehow, these places most put me in a mind for writing.
In 2016, I did not become the writer I wanted to be, but I came closer. I made progress, and next year I will make more. This year, I wrote, and no one can take that from me. It is my victory, and I own it as much as (perhaps more than?) my writing failures.
This year, I dared. This year, I sent article pitches to several online media outlets. Mostly, I got silence; once, I got a response and then nothing. I call this progress.
I wrote a book. Last winter and spring, I spent countless hours at my desk. I tried to make the most of those moments while my son slept and when I didn’t have schoolwork to do. I discovered that writing in the school year is very, very hard. But I did it. This, too, is progress.
In summer, I wrote for long blissful days, hiding away in my office while the hot world curled by. And then, I put myself out further into the world: I wrote queries to so many agents and sent them out and waited.Mostly, there was silence. Sometimes, rejection. Once or twice, fleeting interest.
All this is progress.
And then, full stop. As the year began to draw to its close, I lost sight for a little while. I’m still here, waiting, but nearly ready to move forward.
‘What shall we ever do?’
The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.
-TS Eliot, “The Waste Land”
In two weeks, I’ll put away the lesson plans and the grading and take a brief respite from the school year. I’m ready for my next step, and formulating a plan to take me into the new year. In 2016, I tested the waters and began to see what I might do.
In 2017, I will be more.