Publication.

So, I have my first publication up at Hobart. Currently it’s sitting on the home page (!) but its permalink is here.

Of course, I’m super excited. I love Hobart! I’m finally published! These are amazing things to consider.

I wanted to write a few words about my name. Those of you who know me in real life know my last name isn’t Capet. I will be publishing under the name Lauren Capet. For a whole host of reasons, it’s not right for me to publish under my other last name. Let’s just say, a different name affords some anonymity and some distance between real (complicated) life and the things I write. I’m sure my children will thank me.

If you’re wondering where Capet came from, it’s the name French revolutionaries gave to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI when they were stripped of their royal titles. (For those of you who don’t know: I’ve got somewhat of a Marie Antoinette obsession.)

But anyway, visit (and support) Hobart — it’s a great site and a fantastic print journal. I’m honored to be there.

Defended!

I just successfully defended my thesis.

Yes, it’s really true. My thesis is done, I passed my defense, and I’m going to graduate.

In the end, as always, I got it together. I wrote. I set aside the angst and obsessing and the panic and the fear, and I wrote. I was able to hand a workable thesis to my committee. No, I’m not happy with it, and no, as a novel, it is most definitely not finished. (It’s not even a complete first draft.) There are parts of it that totally suck. But it’s the biggest project I’ve ever attempted. It’s 150-some pages of fiction that I actually wrote. And I don’t hate it. (Well, I don’t hate it all the time, and that’s progress.)

Until my committee brought me back into the room to tell me I passed, I didn’t believe I would. But I did, and I’m going to graduate.

It was actually one of the best afternoons of my life — to sit in a room with my committee (and Molly, of course, my spectator-supporter) and talk about my writing, to engage with a community of writers about my own work — it was pretty incredible. It felt really good. The defense was a perfect capstone to my MFA years. It was a total rush.

Afterward I got to have lunch with awesome Amy — who also graduated this summer, and who defended her thesis yesterday, too — and Molly, at Newdle! A celebratory drink never tasted so good.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my thesis committee: Chris Barzak, Eric Wasserman and Catherine Wing. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are awesome.

Thesis?

I’m trying to finish writing my goddamned thesis.

I say trying, but I really mean, not writing. I’m avoiding. I’m stressing out.

I’ve done a lot of thinking, over the years, about “writer’s block” — more specifically, about my own specific brand of it, my own inability to write. I am not sure this thing called “writer’s block” even is a thing that exists, but I’ve done a lot of reading, over the years, about other writers’ processes. I’ve read more books about writing than I can count. I think about this issue every darned day. I’ve puzzled over my slow pace, my lack of productivity. And I’ve beaten myself up about it for years. Boy, can I be hard on myself. You don’t even know.

Inside my complicated head are two simultaneous ways of thinking. One:

You should write, and look at how much other writers manage to write, and why aren’t you writing? What’s wrong with you? You’re lazy.

And then, two:

You do not have permission to write. You aren’t supposed to be a writer. Writers cause trouble. Writers tell the truth. You suck, anyway. You couldn’t ‘tell the truth’ if you tried. Stop it. Who do you think you are?

In books about writing, many authors say they owe their success to discipline. They get up in the morning and they sit down and they write. I do not mean to make light of that discipline — nor do I mean to suggest it’s easy for those writers. I know it’s not easy for anybody. But I possess an amazing amount of discipline when it comes to other things. I am by no means a lazy person. Yet I cannot sit down and write as a daily habit. There is something bigger than “discipline” or “habit” standing between me and writing. My inability to write is a lot harder to untangle than those “butt in chair” proponents would have me believe.

Although, on the other hand, it is true: my butt is not in the chair, and if it were, I might be writing.

I’ve long described myself as a writer who does not write. I’m a writer — that is who I am, who I have always been. “Writer” is part of my identity. I think about writing every single day. When I am falling asleep, I am writing stories or poems in my head. When I am running or stuck in traffic or folding laundry I am stringing together sentences. This is how I live. I have a writer’s brain, for sure. But I so rarely sit down to write.

It comes back to that permission thing. Why do I feel like I’m not allowed to write? Of course, I know that permission isn’t out there somewhere, it’s not external. It’s somewhere inside my crazy writer head. It needs to come from me.

I just wish I could figure out how to unlock that, how to tell myself: It’s okay. You can write. Go. Finish that thesis.