Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

The Hardest Homework

I am smack in the middle of my second VCFA semester, and, along with a new essay, and the usual reading and writing, my wise teacher gave me the hardest, most impossible homework of all.

She told me to stop working. 🙂         stop

Not to stop writing, to stop working. So damn hard.

She told me to stop trying. To just come to a full STOP.

Do not plan, she told me. Stay in the present. This she said to the person whose planner is a jungle of criss-crossing to-do marks. All the planning, all the activity — it isn’t even so much about publishing for me anymore, hasn’t been for a long while now. It’s just how I am — I am all about moving forward, productivity. I’m a goals girl, a hard-work addict.

Look, she told me. Listen. Feel. Breathe. Play. Have fun, she said. That’s your most important homework. Ha! My dear teacher couldn’t have asked this A-type overachiever anything harder.

Still — Okay, I told my Jedi of a teacher. Okay. Thank you for telling me that. I needed to hear it. So…um…do you think my goal for this semester should be to come up with a solid beginning of the novel? How is that? Is that a good goal?

What? No! she said. Your goal for this semester should be to surrender goals. Your goal is NO GOAL.

Grit teeth. Sigh.


Here I go. Letting go. Trying to. It’s harder than you’d think, at least for me. Getting out of my head. Allowing myself to fall. To fail. To flounder.

But isn’t that what I’ve been doing anyway? I might as well have fun floundering.

I might as well enjoy the fall.

Courtesy of Flickr, credit: Shenghun Lin

Courtesy of Flickr, credit: Shenghun Lin


September 24, 2013 - Posted by | Personal Mirror, VCFA Adventures, What I've Learned Series, Writing Mirror |


  1. Katia, I am very much like you—all about moving forward and being productive, though I do allow myself (not always by choice) to slack a bit, and I certainly am flexible about grabbing “light” moments when they arise. I don’t know if I could possibly have NO goal though! Perhaps your teacher sees you as not able to slow down at ALL, which is why she suggested it 🙂

    Comment by writersideup | September 24, 2013 | Reply

    • So you get how crazy hard this is. And yes, I am sure she could tell I’d really struggle with it and that was why she asked me to do it. They do that, genius Jedi mentors 😉

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 24, 2013 | Reply

  2. I think it’s a wonderful goal for you to try. I suspect you will find ideas flowing more easily. But that’s just me being hopeful that if I let go, that’s what will happen. 😎 Good luck with this very tough assignment.

    Comment by Rosi | September 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Thank you, Rosi! I hope you are right, for both of us!

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  3. Oh my! I feel your pain! Feeling a little floored by this – partly because I think I need to do the same for a bit. But will I? Okay so I am going to the beach in the near future. Maybe there I will put work aside for awhile.

    What are you doing for fun now, Katia?

    Comment by joycemoyerhostetter | September 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Yikes, I STILL don’t have a good answer to that question, Joyce. Does re-reading favorite poems count? 🙂 I will play the piano later today. How about that? A good start? (I told you I suck at this having fun thing!)

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  4. I’m convinced that when you regroup, this story is going to come out better than ever–a work of high art, and I for one cannot wait to read it! xx

    Comment by Anna Craig | September 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks, my dear Anna. But I will NOT think about all this now. Part of the whole letting go thing 🙂 Even as, like I told you before, I will keep your words close.

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  5. Wish I could “like” all these comments. Hooray for letting go, cutting loose, surrendering! Sit back and enjoy every breathtaking moment 🙂

    Comment by Patti Brown | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  6. I like this advice. I’m usually hard on myself, but I do have moments like this when I let go. I believe it’s necessary.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | September 25, 2013 | Reply

    • So you’ve been there, Medeia. I have an inkling you’re a type A, like I am. (Like I was? Can we ever shed this?)

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  7. I’ve always been an A personality too. I like having goals, to do lists and challenges. But once in a while I put “vacation” on my calendar. Sometimes it’s a week, sometimes a day or maybe two. But when I vacation I do absolutely nothing-except lay on the beach, read a good book (no text books allowed) or take a long walk. It is hard work, but try it. You might learn to like it, At least once in a while we all deserve a day of nothing.

    Comment by Doris Stone | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  8. A day of nothing sounds like the perfect prescription for me, Dori. The last time I did it was when we all went camping with family for two nights. It was heaven. Thanks for reminding me to do something like this again!

    Comment by Katia Raina | September 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Baby steps work well. Take it one day at a time and you’ll be fine.

      Comment by Doris Stone | September 25, 2013 | Reply

  9. I understand perfectly, Katia. I like having goals, I love achieving goals. So I’ll try to follow the same advice–listen, feel, breathe, play sounds good too.

    Comment by ellenramsey | September 26, 2013 | Reply

    • Good, Ellen! I am so glad this is helping more than just me. Listen, feel, breathe, play….

      Comment by Katia Raina | September 26, 2013 | Reply

  10. Oh my gosh, that sounds just like me. Amanda made me write in “moments” instead of scenes and had me write in partial sentences and stream of consciousness in order to try to get me away from my rigid planning/plotting. I was actually really surprised by how freeing it was. 🙂

    Comment by Writerlious | October 14, 2013 | Reply

    • That is so cool. And oh, I didn’t know you had Amanda! Lucky you. (of course I am lucky too. My advisor is a GENIUS) 😉

      Comment by Katia Raina | October 14, 2013 | Reply

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