When I was at Clarion, we talked a lot about time. (Also: tentacles. But that was more an effect of the Lovecraftian horror of the squid patty, helpfully offered as "food" by the kitchen staff, than anything else.) We talked about how at the beginning, time stretched out, made the weeks seem to last so much longer, as if we had fallen into Faerie and we would wake to find that years had passed when we left UCSD. Then, sometime around week 5, time cycled through normal for about a day, and then passed in a blur, and suddenly it was our last night there. Then we woke, alone, on the cold hillside, and went home.
When I think about my writing career, I mark its time in relation to Clarion. Applying was the first time I tried seriously to write, being there was the first time I'd really spent around people who defined themselves as writers. So I notice the places in the year - applications open, applications closed, acceptances announced, the beginning and end of the workshop - that match up with those marks.
And somehow three years have passed since getting the email telling me I had gotten in. And a couple of things have happened, that serve as nice markers of that time. The first is something tangible. My story in Apex, "The Speaking Bone," was given a recommended review ("the good story award!") by Lois Tilton for Locus. You guys. I am so excited about this it makes me a little dizzy. The other thing is less tangible, less the sort of thing that I want to print out and put up on my refrigerator, but still important.
Yesterday, I started the rewrite on my book-in-progress (working title still Stronger Than Death, but I'm starting to suspect that might change). And yes, to comfort my ego I'd rather call what I'm doing to the manuscript a revision, but this is for posterity, so I'm going to be honest. The thing that is happening is a rewrite. And as I started the rewrite, I did something with the first scene that not only would I not have been able to do three years ago, it wouldn't have occurred to me to try.
And I guess that's the thing about marking anniversaries like this, about keeping time. That it's a way of remembering who I was, as much as knowing who I am, and thinking about who I want to be. It's about watching this time stretch and condense and give me days where I can see myself getting better, and when, as I read the manuscript that I began in November, I also have the markers of the days when things were worse. When writing was pain and doubt and tentacles, and somehow, stories were born out of that, too.