When In Doubt, Kill.

For the past year and a half I’ve been working on a novel. It started out as a short story and then I thought it was going to be a series of stories and then it turned into something else. I haven’t completed a draft yet (thanks to 2007 “Year of Hell,” then moving, new job, etc), partly because I got stuck. One of the characters gets immobilized sometimes, but I figured out what to do. All along, I was planning on getting her together with the other characters in the last third of the book, but I know now that’s not going to happen because when it all comes together…she’s going to be dead already!

It was sad to make the decision, but she really has few redeeming qualities anyway. And plus, I already eighty-sixed the only likable character in the book anyway.

This has been your “Poet Writing Prose Update” for October.

Write Now, Write Away!

When I talk to people about my job and about being a writer in the same conversation, one question commonly comes up.

“Do you have time to write?” they ask. They ask with sincerity, because they want me to be writing, and they ask with trepidation, because they’re afraid I’m not, and sometimes I think they ask with envy, because they can’t always make time to write and don’t wany anyone else to, either.

The truth is yes, I find time to write. It’s not a lot of time and it’s not frequent, but I write. I write in my blog, I write emails to my family (but, please note, I am admittedly the world’s WORST email correspondent), sometimes I write poems, and I write a lot of garbage on Facebook that I probably shouldn’t.

Also true is that I don’t know how much other people write. By that, I really mean how often.

I don’t keep a regular writing schedule because my schedule is already fairly unpredictible, despite the better efforts of my light OCD tendencies. I know that my most “creative hours” are between 5 pm and 7:30 pm, right when I’m walking Arden, making dinner, and rotting my brain with Nintendo (read: Nofriendo) games. (It’s also the time immediately followed by Top Model, Project Runway, etc.)

When people ask me when I write because they think I don’t have any time to write, I think back on graduate school.

I think back on working a live-in job, very reminiscent of being a governmental au pair in many ways, where I was paid to work 20 hours and worked upwards of 40 while going to school full time. And then the years following that job, while I was a full time student working three jobs (retail, teaching, online teaching). After graduation, I worked a minimum of two jobs, with some added freelance work mixed in, for the next two and a half years. Then, when I wasn’t working two jobs, I was working full time while going back to graduate school full time.

I was also in two long relationships during these years, one of which was a live-in relationship with a man who was gone so often I wrote enough poems to fill two full books. My family moved to the state, my brother had kids, I launched an online poetry magazine, I blogged daily or almost daily, and I wrote grants for myself. I started working out five days a week. I continued to watch as much TV as I always had, and I traveled about once every two months.

If you don’t want to write, you can find a lot of reasons not to do it. In fact, you probably shouldn’t spend your time writing what with everything going on in your lives. I probably shouldn’t. I should play with my dog more, I should cook more food, I should keep my apartment cleaner.

The silver lining is that the insanity of my life, combined with a hot online calendaring system and OCD, has turned me into an amazing time management master. I am more likely to write a poem when I sit down to do so than when I have two weeks of vacation with only “writing and reading” planned. I need the kind of chaos of this life and so I’m grateful for it. It points me toward things to write about, or, better, it encourages me to flee my own life and write about other people.

If you’d like to learn more about my time management secrets, come to my seminar.

Beginning with Questions

I’ve written about 10,000 times on this blog that I always know when it’s time to write again because I start asking questions about what a poem is and what it’s supposed to do.

(It’s happening to me again.)

It makes me a fussy reader, first. I’ll try to read some things, but I’ll become easily frustrated if it seems like something I’ve encountered before, if the poem isn’t challenging or surprising me or if the voice is uninteresting.

Lately, I’ve been frustrated work that appears too autobiographical–in the sense that the poet seems to be recounting unmediated experiences from his or her real life.

Which is fine. I’m not here to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t write, or hot to do it or not. It’s not my business. I’m just not interesting in doing that myself anymore. I want to do something else, somehow else.

I started doing a little research on something yesterday and it gave me goosebumps, made the hair on my arms stand up, so I’m going to move toward it, immerse myself in it, and see where it goes.

It’s tangential to the voice projects I have been working on, which seemed limited only to Dorothy Gale and Dorothy Eady, but that was fine, that was enough.

I’m like Madonna that way. I want complete reinvention every two years.

Cosmetic Surgery for Dummies; School Blues

So, my blog is slowly coming back. I’m not super excited about the blocks Blogger put into place when it comes to template-jacking (everything I had before was done “by hand” by altering code on the template), but at least I got the Buffy quote back…and more things are on the way, I hope.

Some of you know that this semester I’m experimenting with taking a weekend-long “intensive” class. Well, actually two of them. For my first class meeting, I had to read Good to Great, but for this next weekend (that’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 9 am – 5 pm), I have to read Managing Human Behavior in Nonprofit Organizations. Which, if you’ve ever worked in a nonprofit, you know is fairly unmanageable! J/k. Mostly.

This is all so I can graduate from the program in December. That’s only 11 months. I’m hanging on, like that kitten on that poster…”Hang in there!” While it’s desperately clinging to save its life.

So, I have to read that first, and then I made a promise to my conservative friend that I would read The Fountainhead without fully understanding that it was 700 pages long.

And I’m writing poems again. Little ones. About axes and serial killers.

Countdown to Mexico: 2 days.

When you live in Arizona, Mexico does not seem exotic. It seems…there. Nearby. Like Canada when you live in Minnesota and pay for things with Canadian change. When someone gives you Canadian change and you can’t be upset about it because you pass it off all the time anyway, except into vending machines, which are smarter than people, smarter than you.

Trips to Mexico this year: 2 (cumulative after 12/16)
Trips to Canada this year: 2
Other trips this year: Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Austin, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, Nebraska, Michigan

I don’t think I want to write poems anymore. Or, to be succinct, I think I don’t want to write poems anymore.

I want to write things that people read and say, “I don’t know what that is.”

Or, better yet, “I don’t know what that is
but I think I like it.”

The Writing’s on the Wall

A few months ago, I reconnected with an old practice of mine: making lists on my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. Why? Because that’s the one room I’m guaranteed to visit every day, for one reason or another, and having to see the list keeps it fresh in my mind, making me more likely to remember what I put on it.

I’ll tell you what’s on the list right now, as I just saw it:

short screws
shaving cream

Frequently it’s my list of things to get at Target, but sometimes it’s a list of things I don’t want to forget to do, like “Go to the gym five days a week,” or “Eat more vegetables,” whatever.

I’m experimenting with putting this same philosophy to work in writing. I haven’t been writing poems lately (fiction instead), but I’m sensing some are coming, and I keep feeling connections to things I’m running into out in the world. I want to save these things, encourage myself to think more about them, and so I did this:

It’s times like this when I most miss working in Residential Life, with its unlimited access to reams of butcher block paper. I’m just tossing ideas, phrases up on the list, things I think my next poems might be about or address in some way.

The last poem I wrote, incidentally, was called “Poison.”