Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in Review: The Writer's Report

New Year's Eve has never been my favorite holiday. It's easy for me to slip into self-loathing and despair about all the things I didn't accomplish. However, I've also come to realize that I'm often doing better than I think. It's wise for me to take stock, to sit down and take some honest measurements. It's also important for me to have this record, so that in later years I can remember.

I'm one of those people who's fascinated by these kind of reports. I like seeing what other people have done. But I also understand if you're not one of those people. I won't linger long in this assessment practice (although in the coming week, I will post about the books I read last year).

I also know that I have a tendency to read what others have been doing and to use that information to make myself feel even worse about what I have or haven't accomplished. Why do I engage in this useless behavior? One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a yoga teacher, who back in 1996 or so told me, "Quit comparing yourself to everybody else. It won't help." She was right, both in terms of my ability to hold a pose--and in every other aspect of life.

Professional Leaps Forward:

In my January 3, 2010 post on Writer's Resolutions for the coming year, I found this paragraph:
"But here's my main hope/dream/goal: by this time next year, I'd like to have a book forthcoming or published from a press that's reputable (I'm not averse to self-publishing, but I don't think that 2010 will be the best year for me to start a press). I'd love for it to be a book with a spine, although I'd also be happy with a chapbook."

Hurrah! I accomplished this goal. I realize that about the only control I had over this goal was to send out manuscript after manuscript, which I did. I sent out book length manuscripts 7 times, and chapbook length manuscripts 11 times. In addition to the acceptance of I Stand Here Shredding Documents, my manuscript Dismantling the Fallout Shelter was a finalist in the Split Oak Press Chapbook contest.

My other big writing news: I was asked to be an official blogger at The site has posted 5 of my blog postings, and here's the big news: they paid me!

Obviously, this event wouldn't have happened if I hadn't already been blogging, both here and at my theology blog. And Facebook helped as well. On July 21, I got a Facebook message from the woman who would become my editor (old-school term, I know, but it feels like that kind of relationship), asking if I would be one of the bloggers for a new site about to launch. I said yes, and it's been a great experience, which hopefully will continue throughout the coming year.

Poems Written

For this category, I'm counting even failed attempts (but not ideas that I had that I wrote down, but didn't wrestle into any kind of poem shape): 96.

A clarification: the 96 figure means even just a few lines, even those lines that I know will go nowhere. I don't want people to think that I'm talking about fully realized poems. If I counted those it would be far, far less, probably less than a poem a week.

Why didn't I count fully realized poems, so that I'd know for sure? I didn't want to know for sure.

There are weeks that go by when I don't write a poem at all, followed by weeks when poems gush out of me. I am always relieved when I do the yearly count, and I average at least a poem a week. And as I go back through the notebooks, I'm glad to see that at least some of these poems have potential--and some are circulating, even as we speak.

Poems Submitted

I often feel like I don't send out anything anymore, but that's not true. In 2010, I sent 154 poetry packets out into the world. Let me try not to feel bad about how many found a home in the larger world.

Poems Published

Fourteen poems were published.

Blog Writing

I've continued to keep up with two blogs, as I've posted almost every day. I've also posted at Voice Alpha and at Living Lutheran. In many ways, this year blog postings were what brought me most joy. At first, it was a guilty pleasure, and I worried about the time taken away from my "real" writing. Lately, though, I've wondered if blog writing isn't its own genre, as yet barely recognized (like the state of Creative Nonfiction in 1987).

Other Writing

Most of my other writing just depresses me: draft after draft of assessment documents, draft after draft of faculty development forms and supporting reports, countless e-mails about mostly non-consequential items, meeting agendas, that kind of thing.

However, I did have a fun summer. Inspired by Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, I started writing short stories again--two! Yes, in years past, two short stories would be my weekly output, but I'm happy to be writing in that form again.

And even better, I looked at my short stories, and saw how to link them. Hurrah! I had tried before, but not succeeded. I think this attempt will result in success. I wonder if I could finish that manuscript in 2011? I think I'll try!

Manuscript Progress

I revised my book length manuscript, Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site, and I revised my chapbook length manuscript Dismantling the Fallout Shelter. Yes, you do notice a theme.

Other Creative Pursuits

I finished one baby quilt and one full-size quilt. I sewed several baby quilt size quilt tops.

I did a bit with paint and collage.

I did more with photography. I experimented with animated poems (which I called visual poems since my experiments didn't seem very animated), although I'm still unsatisfied with the results (here and here; even though the screens look dark, if you click on the play button, you'll get movement, of a sort).

I worked with a lot of new-to-me technology, and I'm pleased with how I pushed through my discomfort/terror levels. I learned how to record my voice on the laptop. I experimented with Photoshop. I learned to use Movie Maker on a limited basis. I learned how to create a database, and how to make mailing labels (a process which took far more time than anything else I attempted and not nearly as intuitive as it should be). I also learned a lot about the computer as I dealt with computer virus issues and the breakdown of Windows during the late Summer and early Fall.

I continue to cook and bake, activities which I've loved since I was old enough to pour ingredients in a bowl and mix them together, the creative act I've been doing longest. This was the year I came back to sourdough starter, although I've neglected it lately. Today I'll see if a neglected starter can be brought back to life (an apt metaphor for many a thing!). My spouse and I have experimented with a variety of fish, although we haven't caught them ourselves, something I thought we might try.


Overall, I'm happy with my progress as a poet and a writer and a creative person. I'll always wish for time to do more, but I'm happy to be making use of the time I do have. I am painfully aware of some time wasting that I could still eliminate (I do more Internet surfing than I'd like, to sites that leave me feeling malnourished, for example). But if I can keep doing what I'm doing, I'll be happy.


Kathleen said...

Wow! You have accomplished so much in a year. In all kinds of areas. Lovely to read.

Diane Lockward said...

I could kill for that 96! A poem a week? You have made me miserable.

Kristin said...

Oh, Diane, I should have been clearer. I counted all attempts, even those that won't ever amount to anything. Each and every scrap, every 3 lines that died on the page, that kind of thing.

I thought about also counting all the attempts that actually became poems, but I didn't want to get discouraged. It's significantly lower, far lower than one a week.

I'd like to do more readings, more promotion, that kind of thing . . . the things you do so well.

Thanks, Kathleen, as always, for being so neighborly in your consistent commenting. Perhaps one of my 2011 goals will be to do more commenting on blogs!