I have this idea of how productive I should be, and it never matches how productive I am. I always have in mind this past ideal time, a largely mythical time, where I wrote novels in the morning, sent out manuscript submissions in the afternoon, scribbled poems in between, and met with artist friends for dinner.
While my life has been like that here and there, I've usually only had one element happening at a time. I'm sending out dozens of submissions a month, but not writing much. Or I'm blazing away on a novel, but not writing anything else. You get the idea.
I have this idea that I've accomplished absolutely nothing with my writing, but can that be true? Probably not. Let's check in.
By sorting through this blog, it appears that I've had 11 poems published in 2009. Hurrah!
I've been beating myself up for writing nothing this year, but I have filled up 3 legal pads. Let's go through the legal pads and see how much of this noodling resulted in actual poems.
And I wrote about 15 poem-ettes for the August Poetry Postcard project and several haiku for the poem-a-day challenge in April. And I probably wrote a few here and there, at the office or other places, where I worked on an idea, even though I didn't have my poetry legal pad with me.
51 poems. Wow. I've never actually gone back to count how many poems I've written in a year, so I don't know how this year compares to past years, but 51 poems is far from nothing in any year.
Will they all be published? No. Some of them aren't particularly good, and I'm not likely to have any ideas to make them better.
I keep all my old notebooks, and I have this idea that I'll go back through them some day and pick up wisps of ideas and turn them into something. But so far, I never have.
I also like the idea of being the kind of writer who works on poems every day, but I'm not. I work in bursts. When I'm not working in a burst, I always worry that I'll never write again, but I should probably work on putting that worry aside. Even during horrible times of trauma (like after hurricanes or when a loved one is in trouble, medical or otherwise), I still store away images and return to writing when life calms down.
Other Writing I've Done
Let's not count the endless accreditation reports, although if I did, I've probably written 50-75 pages throughout the year. Probably more. Sigh.
Let's not count all the e-mails I've written, although I've labored over some of them longer than I've labored over poems. Double sigh.
I spent much of September writing an academic paper on To Kill a Mockingbird. It's always interesting to flex those muscles. And it's always good to remember that willing librarians and Interlibrary Loan just aren't as good as a real research library. Nowhere close in fact. There are many things I don't miss about grad school, but I'll never recover from having access to Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. My reading and researching life will never be that good again.
I also wrote several book reviews.
And I blogged a lot. I've been worrying that blogging has taken the place of all other writing, but clearly it hasn't.
However, I haven't written in my old-fashioned, offline, paper journal as much. Blogging has taken the place of much of that writing. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
I usually submit a lot of work in the Fall, but I spent much of September writing my academic paper. So I've been feeling guilty/slackerly about not getting that done. But let's see what I accomplished (and let's try not to compare it to what got published, and let's definitely not compute the postage cost).
150 poetry packets sent out into the world. So, I'm not as slackerly as I thought.
I'm still sending out my first book-length manuscript (which is really more like my 3rd, but I abandoned my early ones). I also sent out some chapbook manuscripts. My submissions notebook shows I sent out manuscripts 17 times.
But in a more exciting development, I put together a new book-length collection. The poems in this book are strange and they focus on God and other religious issues. I expect that right-wing types will hate the idea of Jesus in the modern world, a theme of many of the poems, and atheists will refuse to touch it, and academic types won't know what to make of it. It might be doomed from the start. But I like it.
Other Creative Pursuits
I've finished one full size quilt, and I'm close to finishing another queen size quilt. I've made several baby quilts.
I've crocheted 10 scarves.
I've sung a lot, but not practiced any instrument.
I've been part of creating liturgies and worship services at church and on retreat.
I've done a bit of photography.
I've cooked and baked, but never as much as I would like. I haven't tried many new recipes this year. But I haven't had to resort to eating fast food, no matter how busy my life has gotten.
I always wish I had done more painting, fabric art, and collage art. This past year, I only created a piece or two.
For the most part, my Creativity Self is happy. There are days when she doesn't get to do as much as she would like, but happily, most weeks include at least some time each day (or every several days) for creative pursuits.
Some of you may wonder how I do as much as I do and still work my 40-50 hour a week job. I try to be very intentional about my time. I don't watch much television at all (I usually fall asleep when I try to watch T.V.), and I don't watch movies and DVDs like I once did. It's easy to give up on T.V. when you have no cable and the digital signal is always pixelating. I've given up on many of the ways in which our culture tries to distract and control us: I do minimal housework, I exercise enough to stay healthy but not so much as to cut into the time I have for important projects, I don't spend a lot of time on make-up, hair, and clothes. I'm brutally efficient in terms of what has to get done, so I can get to doing what I really want to do.
In short, I don't procrastinate the way that I might if I had loads of free time. I know this, because I once had a lot more free time, which I wasted with television and excess exercising and fluffy reading. But now that I have less time, I find that I get right to what's important to me. I try to be always ready for any scraps of time that fall into my day, so that I don't waste them. I try not to let society dictate my values. If the rest of the nation wants to keep up with American Idol or which cultural star is doing which goofy/criminal stuff, great. I have stuff I want to get done before I'm dead.
In the next day or two, I'll think about my writing and creativity goals for 2010.
The Summer of Reading
4 months ago