Except that the parent in the ad is thrilled that the kids are going back, while the kids are miserable. Attribute that thrill to the student, and you have me in grad school.
Yes, I was a nerd, and I'm proud of it. Starting a new semester was truly exciting. It wasn't about getting past another hurdle. It was about new opportunities to learn and explore, new chances to develop my skills and broaden my horizons. Remember what it's like when you're in a new relationship? The mystery? The excitement? The awe? The tentative (or maybe not so tentative) exploration? It's like that.
As much as I had opportunities to broaden my horizons in industry, I still find that the delineation of semesters and academic years has a strong psychological effect on me. As the daylight gets shorter, it gets harder for me to get out of bed in the morning...but the promise of the New (new experiences, new students, new ideas) is remarkably motivating and exciting. (As is the opportunity to catch up with some former students and follow their progress...the opportunity to follow up on projects begun in previous semesters...it's not ALL about the new. I'm not obsessed with shiny newness for the sake of shiny newness. Honest.)
So how does this relate to writing? (Yes, I have all the focus of a Simpsons episode, starting with one thing and ending somewhere else entirely.)
Well, I do get jazzed by totally new story ideas, with as much excitement and energy as the beginnign of a new school year. I'm easily wooed by how attractive and exciting they are. And I am totally guilty of getting sidetracked by such pretties. Sometimes (when I'm lucky), all I need to do is jot down a few ideas and sentences in a new doc and save it for later. Other times, I have to wrestle that idea to the ground over a few thousand words at least...very distracting. (Could this be why I haven't yet completed a single manuscript? Hmmm.) Fortunately, Dave White, author of the e-book WITNESS TO DEATH, has a recent--and helpful--guest post at Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds blog exactly about how to handle distracting new ideas: "New Ideas Are Like Shiny Jewels."**
(**Warning: adult language. And that warning covers the entire Terrible Minds blog. Just in case that matters to you.)
So...what am I saying today?
- Well, one, even if you aren't in academia, new beginnings abound. New jobs, new friends, new endeavors, and, yes, new story ideas. Celebrate them. Don't miss out on the excitement, don't try to block out the nervousness...celebrate the moment. It will inevitably pass (which is not a necessarily a bad thing...but it's worth being aware of how fleeting "new" is).
- Two, be adventurous. No, I don't mean go climb Mt. Everest or quit your day job to explore the Amazon. But consider the last time you tried something new. This past summer, I took an African Dance class, just for the chance to try something new...and it was awesome. As the instructor explained, African dances sometimes require your muscles to move in unfamiliar ways; the rhythms and movements and cultural background all awakened my senses anew.
- Three...here is my "Toast to New Beginnings":
Embrace the unknown, even as you cling to the familiar.
Seek out life, even unto death.