Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Definition of a Good Writing Week

It's been a fairly good writing week:  I've written some poems, and I've made a tiny bit of progress with my memoir.  I've gotten a writing assignment from the Living Lutheran site.  And I've finally gotten back to my submission process:  I've sent out 6 poetry packets (half electronically, half via old-fashioned mail with stamps).  And yesterday, finally, some good submission news.

I was sorting through the mail last night, opening a slim envelope which I expected to hold a standard rejection slip.  It took me a minute to realize I was looking at an acceptance slip from Slant.  Hurrah!

Slant has published my poems before, so it's a different kind of thrill than if, say, Poetry had accepted a poem.  There are journals I submit to out of habit, because I always have, because it would be a thrill if that journal accepted my poem, but after decades of submission, I'm not expecting that I really will.  And then I submit to old friends, journals that sometimes accept my poems, but sometimes don't, and I understand that process too.

I am surprised by the happiness that the acceptance gave me--and the relief that coursed through me.  Some days I think I may never see a poem published again; it's been awhile since I had an acceptance.  Of course, my submission schedule hasn't been as rigorous as it once was.

When I walked to my car after work, I was calculating how long it had been since my last chapbook, and I was remembering how news of that acceptance came when I was beginning to despair of ever having a chapbook published again.

This week, I've begun to think in terms of a book-with-a-spine again.  I'm ready to re-order my manuscript.  I have the glimmerings of a vision.  No, it's more than a glimmer, but I do need to sort through my more recent poems.  I need to look through my notebooks to see if there's good material that needs to be typed up.

Happily, my writer's retreat at Mepkin Abbey is coming up.  That will be my project this year.  And this year, I have a laptop, which I predict will make me more productive.  I plan to have that manuscript complete by mid-February.

I am still working away at last year's project.  Last year, I pulled my memoir manuscript together.  I continue to work on revision.  I am probably making more progress than I think that I am.  I remember the writer that I used to be, the one who cranked out a novel in 6 months--or 6 weeks, if I was in a blinding heat of creativity.

It's funny how I define a good writing week these days.  Once upon a time, I'd have defined a good writing week in terms of writing multiple chapters of a novel, while sending out 40 poetry packets in envelopes, and putting together a poetry manuscript.

I try to remember if I had the same work responsibilities.  Some years, I did not.  Some years, I was only working 20 or so hours a week.  Some years, I was driving across multiple counties trying to patch together a living.

There are days when I wonder why I bother, especially when it comes to poetry.  Once I thought that the right poetry publication might lead to a better teaching job.  Now, I doubt that anything I write will lead to that promised land.

I know that if I gave up on poetry publication altogether, I'd still keep writing poetry.  I love the way that poetry moves me to see words and worlds differently.

I still have visions of a best seller that will generate enough income to live on, that will generate speaking invitations, that Oprah will love.  Perhaps that dream is a possibility, but it will likely not come on the wings of poetry.

Or could it?  Something in me doesn't let that dream die. What would our world look like if a poetry book could become a best seller that would generate enough to live on?

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