Wednesday, November 28, 2018

eating and writing, or how to feed the poem monster

I mentioned in my Thanksgiving gratitude post the fact that this year has been unusually productive in terms of actually getting words on the page.  I have been printing up projects, some of them done, some of them close to, and keeping them on the cabinet next to my desk. I occasionally thumb through them and wonder how so many words could possibly have been happening in the past year. Or maybe moreso since April, when my NAPOWRIMO exploits continued month by month afterward (well, mostly, I have skipped some days and entire weeks when my attentions were entirely elsewhere, or like last week, where I gave myself a holiday break.)

It's probably the largest output of work in my writing career--other spots in the past held that designation-- the last year of my lit grad school,  where I was writing feverishly and wholeheartedly having decied to try to do this thing for real.  My MFA years. Those garnered, at most a couple poems/week, but at other times, other years, those seemed like a brisk pace.  In the time I was writing major characters in minor films, I was lucky to get a poem every two or three months when I got cagey about not writing.  The pace picked up post 2012, but even still doughts would be followed by furious spates of productivity to write the newer books.

While I tend to write in shorter series, some of the things I accomplish in any given day are fragments, but after a while they definitely become a whole.  Those series then start to constellate into larger projects.   As such, I have several small series that make up about 2-3 longer books in progress, as well as some other stuff just floating. About 8 years ago, in 2010 amidst the drought, I would be surprised that I would ever write this much at all.  So much impedes the progress--then (2007-2010) it was increasing the size of the press, the brisk business of the etsy shop, and the anxiety of constantly trying to earn enough money there to supplement the chapbook income and make the studio rent.  As the press sold more books, this lessened and I was able to pull away and move off etsy in 2011, which made the pace of things a little slower.  Certain things stabilized around then and I could get back a little to making zines and more artwork--not merely for retail appeal, but my own pursuits with less worry that I had to make money from them (and all the time devoted to strategizing/promoting that was mine once again.)

I was also battling internally what I like to call my post-MFA syndrome--that feeling of too many hands on my poems, and still maintain that it was the James Franco pieces that vaquished it in late 2011.  Soon followed the shipwreck mermaid poems and the bulk of what made up salvage over the next two years, as well as the shared properties of water and stars.  Other related things were happening during this time--girl show, my thesis mss, which was rendered adrift when Ghost Road went under in 2010, was picked up by Black Lawrence and slated for publication.  Noctuary solicited shared properties... and released it in 2013.  The JF poems were a huge success when Sundress published them as an e-chap.  All of which drew me out of the funk I'd been in for awhile and made me less likely to doubt my commitment to sparkle motion. I felt more like a poet again--so I guess I started to act more like it.

But even still that pace, since around 2013, has been much slower and less productive than this year all by itself, and I feel like it's for a very simple and rather uncomplicated reason.  I spent years, my days filled with so many other things--commutes and studio work, the library, then home, then sleep and the whole time writing was this thing that I MIGHT get to before bed, but sometimes exhaustion or distraction won out.   It was also hardly the idea brainspace for concentration or creativity. It rarely happened, or if it did, it was uninspiring.  More often the productivity came in spurts around my own deadlines for things when I buckled down and devoted panicked chunks of time to things. I'd then end up writing like 10 pieces in 3 days, and entire chapbook series in a week.  All vey nice, but not very sustainable.

This year, I was so determined to nail NAPOWRIMO, after years of failing about 10 days in, that I switched up the routine.  Instead of trying to fit writing time in at the end or later in the day, I wondered what would happen if I started my day writing--before e-mails, before galleys and jammed printers, before book assembly and trimming, before library planning and minutiae, before dinner and house straightening, before falling exhaunsted into bed.  What if I started in this pure, unpolluted state and set out immediately to write while my mind is still fresh and unencumbered?

Obviously, I am not an early riser.  Most of my days begin at 10am and end at 2am. I wake and am down at the studio at 12, so for the past few months, I've been prioritizing a half hour or so while my printers are running to getting something down.  In the past I'd have used this time waiting for sets of chap pages to scroll through instagram or facebook, to glance at e-mail to see if anything was pressing. Now I open whatever project doc I am working on while eating my breakfast sandwhich. Eventually it became rote, almost linked,  eating and writing.  Usually by the time I finish my latte, I have something I can work with.  I'll revisit it later in the day or before bed to tweak it.  Once every couple of weeks I print ot out and edit further (thus the stacks next to my desk at home.)

This simple change has made a drastic impact on my writing and sometimes I feel like it was so stupidly simple, how did I not think of this years ago? How much writing did I miss doing things the old way, that uphill battle throughout the day to compromise between what you have to do and what you want to do?  But now,  there's no going back...

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