Yesterday I backed up my computer for the first time in over a year. (Sidebar: HOLY CRAP, how could I have let so much time go by?! Bad, bad Kristan…) Since I was hooked up to all my old files anyway, I decided to browse through some of my writing from college.

Many of the stories were so emo that I couldn’t read past the first page. Did I seriously turn that stuff in to my professors? (And get A’s on it, for the most part?) I thought I’d left all the melodramatic teenage angst behind in high school. Unfortunately not.

Thankfully there are a handful of stories that I’m still reasonably proud of (including “The Tenth Time” and “The Escape”) to balance things out. There is even one that I may clean up and offer on Amazon along with TWENTY-SOMEWHERE and “The Eraser.” What’s funny is, the story is definitely YA, but it was written long before I knew what YA was. I guess that seed has always been inside me, just waiting to be watered.

Anyway, this somewhat entertaining, somewhat embarrassing journey through my past also brought to the surface a very specific memory: Me telling Andy that things would be different once I graduated college.

I remember the moment vividly: a bright Sunday afternoon, I was a senior, sitting on my extra-long twin bed, feverishly writing the next 10 pages of my thesis project, which were due the following day. My thesis project was a novel — or more accurately, half of a novel, because with all my extracurricular activities, a full 300+ page manuscript seemed out of the question. And that was precisely what I was explaining to Andy. That being a resident assistant, and director of the dance club, and a sexual assault advisor, along with my full course load, took up too much time and energy. It wasn’t reasonable to expect me to write a novel on top of all of that. (Never mind that he had done it when he was a sophomore…)

But once I graduated, and had only a job to worry about (“only” a job, HAHAHA), then things would be better. I’d finish the novel in no time. Not only that, but I’d write a short story every month (and get them all published, HAHAHAHAHA). I’d practically breathe words onto the page, in this naïve fantasy future of mine. It’d be so easy. Once I’d graduated.

About a year later, we were having the same conversation. Only it wasn’t “when I graduate,” it was “if I didn’t have a job.” For nearly 4 years, I told myself that writing would be easier, faster, if I could focus on it full-time. So one day, with the support of Andy and my parents, I decided to take the plunge. I quit my job. There was nothing in the way anymore.

Two years later, I’m still not living in that magical, fantasy future. Now it’s not “if I didn’t have a job,” it’s “if I had an agent.” “If I had more money.” “If my wrists didn’t hurt so much.” “If I were sleeping better.” If if if…

All the “if”s in the world are not going to make this any easier or faster, I’ve realized. It all starts and ends with me. I have to figure out how I work best, and then do it. It’s as simple — and difficult — as that.

(On a related note, that old cliché is true: Be happy now, because now is all you’ve got.)

So whenever I feel like the hardest thing about writing is that it’s just me and the page, I’m going to try to remind myself that, ever since I was a girl, my favorite thing about writing has always been that it’s just me and the page.

16 responses to ““Things will be different when…””

  1. T. S. Bazelli Avatar

    That’s a really good thing to remember. And it is the best thing, isn’t it? The joy of creating is what it’s all about ;) (I’d much rather be doing that then worrying about agents and submissions)

  2. Shari Avatar

    Sometimes I think “if” is the longest word in the English language. Seriously. It’s so easy to daydream about the future, and to be positive that things will go smoother if X, Y, or Z happens … and yes, maybe that’s true, but it’s also true that our writing journeys fall mostly on us. Nothing’s going to happen unless we make it happen. I actually take a lot of comfort in that. In this field where SO MUCH is out of our control, it helps to know that the joy of writing is something we can hold near and dear to our hearts. :)

  3. Joelle Wilson Avatar

    A full year since backing up? Yeah that is not such a good thing. I love looking through old writing files especially when I run across something odd that makes me wonder what I was thinking when I wrote it. :)

    Thanks for reminding me that happiness (to this writer) is a blank page.

  4. mandy Avatar

    “If” can be such a destructive word, can’t it? I am always reminding myself to work with what I have because most of the time, it CAN get done. I just have to change something, which is rarely anything other than my attitude.

    That being said, I’m going to go back up my computer right now. Thanks for the reminder :)

  5. Natalia Sylvester Avatar

    Yes, exactly! If we can’t love it and revel in it when it’s just us and the page, then what’s the point? (Funny thing: I had my first video interview on Friday and one of the questions they asked was if I felt I’d changed since selling my book. I said I hoped not, but that it’s made me value how much the joy of it all really about the simplicity of writing, about you, the words, and the page. Because all the happiness that comes later when the work is complete and on its way to being published doesn’t matter if there weren’t moments when the writing for the sake of it is what kept you going).

  6. linda Avatar

    Hahaha, I do that too. I was so sure once I moved to Taiwan and started working I’d be spending all my evenings and weekends writing and would have a novel written in no time. (Yeah, that didn’t happen.) Now I’m daydreaming about how much more I’d get done if I didn’t have to work. But quitting my job isn’t going to make me more disciplined overnight, so I should probably work on that first. :)

  7. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    There’s always that theory that somehow tomorrow will have 26 hours, or next week will have nine days, or whatever. Never gonna happen (at least in my experience). (There isn’t an app that will make days longer. :-) )

    Recently I’ve been writing scenes on my cell phone when I have a few minutes here and there.

    And, yes, a year without backing up is not good. As the phrase goes, if data doesn’t exist in three places, it doesn’t exist.

  8. Melissa Avatar

    I agree that ‘now is all we have’ and very much believe the joy is in the journey. But I also think the changes you’ve dared to make have made a difference – don’t you? Sure there’s always the next ‘if only…’ but, turn around and see how far you’ve come. There’s merit and comfort in that long view, too.

  9. Jon Avatar

    I agree with Melissa. There’s a lot to be proud of. Not everyone has a hit on Amazon, nor a popular blog. It’s all in the perspective. You’ve accomplished a lot in a very short time. Of course, as they said in the sixties, it’s the journey, not the destination.

  10. Juliann Avatar

    I don’t think we ever get over thinking that ‘things will be different when…’ There’s always something.

  11. Kristan Avatar

    The grass is always greener, lol. B/c right now I would kill to be ready to query. Sigh.

    “Sometimes I think “if” is the longest word in the English language.” – GENIUS. Beautiful genius. And I agree, it’s comforting to know that no one and nothing can take the writing from us. (Except ourselves.)

    Good to know that remains the most important part, even after taking the next steps in this journey. :)

    “But quitting my job isn’t going to make me more disciplined overnight, so I should probably work on that first. :)” – EXACTLY. I guess I thought quitting my job WOULD make me more disciplined overnight. NOPE. So that’s still what I’m working on. Sigh…

    Oh for sure. I don’t regret the changes I made (lol definitely wouldn’t want to have NOT graduated) but they were all external, and I think what I’m realizing is that external changes don’t have as much impact as internal ones. That’s all.

    Aw, thanks. :)

  12. […] “Things will be different when…” by Kristan Hoffman, @kristanhoffman […]

  13. Becky Wallace Avatar

    Oh…if I weren’t in the same, but completely different place. Last year it was, “I’ll have two kids in school next year for at least four hours.” This year it’s, “Even though the kids are gone I’ve been so sick. When I feel better…” And I know next year it will be, “When this new baby is on a good napping schedule…” I just have to accept that something will always stand in my way. I’ll have to be strong enough, devoted enough, brave enough to get past those obstacles.

  14. Sonje Avatar

    This is a great post. Sorry it’s taken me so long to read it.

    For some reason, this reminds me of something someone once told me: if you want something done, you don’t ask the person who has nothing to do. On the contrary, you find the busiest person, the person with the most on his/her plate, and ask him/her to do it. Because that person knows how to get stuff done–and wants to take things on.

    I AM NOT JUDGING YOU. lol. I am definitely not the busiest person and no one should ask me to do anything! lol

  15. Kristan Avatar

    You’re alive!! *cheers* No worries, didn’t think you were judging. I’ve heard variations on that saying/story, and while I sort of agree with it (in part because I live with Andy and he’s totally one of those people) I also worry that it helps perpetuate the idea that people should be able to do/have it it all. I used to be one of those “say yes to everything” people, and I did get a lot done and I was happy, but I didn’t get MY stuff done. Andy manages to make/take time for himself too, but I guess he’s just that much better at juggling than I am.

    Now the key is not to let my juggling muscles get rusty, though. When you learn how to say no to things, you have to make sure that you don’t start slacking! Otherwise saying no is pointless, because you have the time but still aren’t doing what you wanted.

  16. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    “Sonje-You’re alive!! *cheers*”

    I thought that, too. :-)