Lena Corazon: Learning to Love the Space Between

Being Between: a series about moving from our current day jobs and life situations toward our true vocations and life goals.

In this third installment of the Being Between series, Northern Californian poet, novelist and sociology doctoral candidate Lena Corazon talks about her multiple lives and shares one of her poems.

Even though I’ve been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since I was a little girl, I always considered it to be little more than a hobby, something I did for fun. The route of academia seemed far more practical, and so I decided that I would study for a PhD and become a college professor.

I was lucky enough to get my wish. I entered a PhD program in sociology straight out of college, and quickly learned that grad school, like academia itself, is one big juggling act. For the last four years I’ve been student, teaching assistant, and scholar. I slog my way through 300+ pages of reading each week, grade what feels like mountains of assignments, and look for spare time to cram in my dissertation research.

It’s little surprise that during my first couple of years as a grad student, I didn’t pick up a single novel or write one word of fiction. Why? I had a skewed fantasy in my head about what it meant to be a “serious” scholar. Serious scholars, as far as I was concerned, did not prance about in make-believe worlds. Serious scholars didn’t waste time having conversations with imaginary people. Serious scholars did Very Serious Things, like immerse themselves in social theory and write books filled with academic jargon. 

But as every writer eventually discovers, the impetus to create cannot be completely suppressed. I’m learning at long last that I am both sociologist and creative writer, a woman with a foot in the world of rationality and theory, and a foot in the wild places of my imagination. There’s no way that I could give up one life for the other. Sociology provides me with the tools to understand social inequalities on a systemic scale and the passion to teach others; writing gives me the opportunity to use my academic knowledge and weave it into fiction.

Somehow, this juggling act has proven successful. Challenges like A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) have helped me to integrate academia and writing, allowing me to set small, achievable goals essential for managing my many interests. Over the last eighteen months I’ve completed my MA thesis and satisfied the requirements to advance to doctoral candidacy. I have four novels in-progress sitting on my hard drive and if things go according to plan, I’ll be ready to publish at least two of them in 2014. That will hopefully be the same year I complete my dissertation, earn my PhD, and hit the job market.

At the moment, I’m enjoying a year’s research leave from the university, so my schedule is more flexible than it has been in a long time. I spend three days a week doing archival research for my dissertation, a study of 19th century Catholic nuns in the San Francisco Bay Area. The rest of the week is split between family, writing, and self-care.

I’ve come to love this space that lies between lives, because it’s only here that I can achieve wholeness.

“Beginnings”
by Lena Corazon

There are some beginnings that strike the heart with fear,
send it racing with adrenaline,
careening pell-mell, till anxiety steals every word.
But this beginning is simple joy
like a sunlit meadow, or a sea of white daisies waving in the breeze.
This beginning stands at the edge of infinite possibility
a million unmarked pages waiting for that first breath of inspiration,
that first drop of ink.
I spill that ink now, my first offering,
a promise of passion and commitment both,
to allow truth to flow from my pen,
to remember that “in the beginning was the Word”
and that Word brings life to me.

Copyright 2012 Lena Corazon. All rights reserved.

Read more of Lena’s poetry here, and connect with her on Twitter and on her blog, Flights of Fancy.

17 thoughts on “Lena Corazon: Learning to Love the Space Between

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  2. Louise Behiel

    I’m late getting to this lovely post, ladies. Lena, you are as busy as anyone I know, including me. And I truly get that “standing between’ place. It’s uncomfortable to know i’;m going someplace but without moving in that direction. well done

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  4. lynettemburrows

    Wow, Lena. You have been a very busy lady. It’s wonderful that you’re embracing the space between. I have to agree, there’s no doubt that you’ll accomplish your goals. Great post. Great series, SJ. Glad to see that you’re going to keep them coming.

  5. Jess Witkins

    You’re a very busy lady, Lena, and very talented one too! Your dissertation work sounds incredible! I’d love to know what you’re uncovering! You put a smile on my face when you gave a shout out to ROW because I’m experiencing for my second round such a wonderful group of people and hardworkers involved. So inspiring!

  6. Lynnette Conroy

    I, too, fell into the Very Serious Things trap. I am still struggling to make room for the wild imagination in the rigid confines I find myself in. So glad to see you are making this work! Perhaps it is time I rejoined the RoW forces!!

  7. Debra Eve

    I don’t know how you do it, Lena. A research year sounds wonderful, though, and your dissertation subject something I’d be interested in. You’re an inspiration!

  8. Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

    Lena, I can relate to so much of what you describe here–although it took me about a decade longer to figure things out than it did you. I know you will achieve all you set your hand and heart to. Your poem expresses the quiet joy of writing so well.

    Sally, thank you for hosting Lena, and what a lovely idea for a blog series!

  9. Elizabeth Fais

    Very inspiring! I don’t doubt that you will make your goals either. It’s encouraging to hear about other writers who must juggle multiple projects and dance between career paths to achieve their writing goals. Just know that you are not alone and that we are cheering you on!

    1. Lena Corazon

      Elizabeth, thank you, and I agree–there’s nothing like knowing that there are other writers striving to realize their dreams of writing while maintaining other responsibilities. SJ’s series is really wonderful for allowing us to showcase our multifaceted lives.

    1. SJ Driscoll

      Thanks for reading, Jennette! Being able to teach while still writing is a unique skill–I tried and couldn’t do it. People who have the ability to do both are amazing.

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