A Grateful Writing Life
Written by
Sophfronia Scott
December 2014
Written by
Sophfronia Scott
December 2014

I am waiting. It’s a common activity for writers. You work on a piece of writing. You finish it. You send it somewhere. You send it to a reader for feedback, you send it to a literary journal for possible publication, or you send it to a literary agent for possible representation. And then you wait. Ideally you work on more writing while you wait.

But I’m learning my brain likes to use this waiting time to roll around in a lot of unhelpful, distracting thoughts. These thoughts mainly focus on what I haven’t done yet—goals still unattained, essays not written or revised, a short story not progressing quickly enough. I also think about what I’m missing. This week the “missing” thoughts center on missing my Vermont College of Fine Arts community and how, because of my graduation in July, this will be the first time in three years I won’t be traveling to snowy Montpelier for a 10-day residency. (Photo at right by Melissa Fisher) The same kind of thinking makes me downplay or give short shrift to my accomplishments. “Yes, getting that publication is great but I don’t know what’s happening with my novel.”

However a specific realization about VCFA and then an image I saw posted on Facebook coincided to disperse these thoughts by giving me a pretty good knock upside the head. First the realization: three years ago this month I began my pursuit of an MFA. Here’s where I was before I went to VCFA. My sister Theodora had passed away just four months before and in my shock and grief I’d made the decision that I wouldn’t waste any more time not practicing my art. I was writing, yes, but it was all writing connected to my business and none of it furthered my creative work. I was trying to write my second novel but had no time to get beyond the first two chapters. The literary community I craved seemed to be on another planet. I wanted to have a different life, a writing life, where I showed up in the world as an author and a literary writer.

This week Ruminate Magazine announced the publication of its winter issue and posted on Facebook an image revealing the cover that included the names of the writers featured in the issue. And there it was: my name on the cover of Ruminate. I knew my essay, “Why I Must Dance Like Tony Manero,” a finalist for Ruminate’s 2014 VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, would be in the issue but I didn’t know it would be highlighted on the cover.


This picture totally rang my bell. It seemed to say, “Silly girl! Look at how far you’ve come! See what you have and not what you lack!” When I did look I was so humbled I fell to my knees. It is three years later and I have:

• My MFA, and it’s even a dual-genre one (fiction and creative nonfiction)
• Completed my second novel including extensive revisions. It’s now with my literary agent.
• A new gig where I’ll teach fiction and creative nonfiction in a low-residency creative writing program, the Mile-High MFA, at Regis University in Denver.
• Had a number of essays and short stories published—and now I have my name on the cover of a gorgeously awesome literary journal.
• The joy of being surrounded by writers, truly great writers, and I’m inspired and supported by their examples and the feeling that we’re all in this together.
• The focus and drive to work on my own writing and reading every single day while still handling some client projects.

In other words, I have the writing life I sought three years ago. I don’t have to wait for my novel to sell or for some other huge validation that I’ve arrived. My writing life is here, it’s now, and I’m living it. This doesn’t mean I think I’m supposed to be woo-woo happy all the time. Writing is hard and the writing life is no cruise ship vacation. (Side note: One of my essays was just rejected by an editor I know well personally. None of this comes easily!) But it’s what I wanted and I have it. I will try to maintain this awareness as much as I can. Hopefully from now on, or at least every time I sit down to write, I’ll better appreciate how much I am truly in my gratitude.




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