Weekly Update: Are we there* yet?

*”There” being loosely defined as “that magical place where stress goes to die.”


The last time I wrote, it was the day before my first big manuscript ship-off. In the day before its deadline, I beat some poems into shape, barked at some other ones that needed to stay in line, and finally printed off a final version with the title pages/bio, etc. some of the contests required.

Then, I packaged them (for some reason, I chose five contests this year where all but one accept only mail submissions) and laid them on my kitchen table to mail in the early morning.

The next morning, I got up, got ready 30 minutes early to make sure I’d have enough time to get to the post office and to work. I put my laptop in my trunk and set my envelopes like precious cargo in my passenger seat. I got into the driver’s seat, put my key into the ignition and turned it. My car made a spluttering sound and the lights on the dash flickered, but the engine didn’t turn. I tried a couple more times for good measure, but nothing. My husband came home, gave me a jump, and we discovered my battery terminals were horribly corroded and I also needed a new battery.

I rushed to work, getting there exactly on time (amazingly). I panicked that I wouldn’t have any time to go to the post office to mail it for it to get that precious postmark right on schedule, but I thankfully had a break around 1:30 and was able to rush over and mail it off.

Now, come November 30th, I need to mail my manuscript off to two more contests, which means another run of printing and packaging and mailing that I should be doing now. After that, maybe, I’ll be able to give up the editing.

I’ve been in editing land since the first of November really. After thumping through Swallow Tongue, I cut down an essay and just yesterday discovered a short story I wrote in college that I want to go through and the first paragraph of a story I want to shape into something interesting. The problem with so much editing is that editing doesn’t have the same feeling of excitement or completion. I’m as familiar with the work as the inside of my own mouth, and I’m hacking away the excess.

I’m also at a loss for where to go from here. Swallow Tongue feels so complete at the moment, like it needs an extra poem as much as a person needs an extra knee. It could have an extra one, but it’d be weird. Even though I submitted Swallow Tongue to another contest before, I never felt like it was done. I kept writing poems and had the thought that maybe they’d go in a different version of the manuscript someday.

Now that the manuscript feels done, like publish-it-already sort of done, I don’t know what kind of poems to write anymore, and I’ve been stuck reading lovely ones and feeling like I have a bunch of kindling inside of me but not the right spark yet. 

Because my poet mind seems dormant, I’ve been looking more at my fiction. After getting that story accepted for publication, I finally had the thought, “Wow! I could maybe do that again!” and then I remembered that writing and working on fiction is painfully hard for me, like cutting wood outside in the cold until my fingers turn blue and ache yet I keep chopping…I don’t know what it is about it, but spending all that time in a chair working through a story seems agonizing to me. I really want to shake every fiction writer I meet and say, “DON’T YOU WANT A LIFE? WRITE A POEM FOR GOD’S SAKE AND FROLIC IN A MEADOW!”

Poetry and fiction are two very different beasts. I primarily write poems that tell a story, usually about some relationship. The longer I’ve been writing, the less narrative they’ve been and the more they’ve focused on language and word play. I’ve even been brave enough to play with the syntax a bit and make it a little more surreal. With fiction, on the other hand, I have to think about (imagine me grimacing while saying all of these words) character and plot and summary vs. scene, let alone all that space. I worked on the short story that finally got accepted for publication for about a year, a hard year of editing, sending it out, getting nice rejections, editing it again, sending it out, getting form rejections and some nice, editing, sending it out, getting more form rejections or nice rejections. I have trouble reasoning why someone would choose to spend all of their time on fiction. I can write a poem in a day, but I can’t conceive spending enough time at my computer to finish a draft of a story in a day (I’m slow probably).

Enough complaining about fiction. I’m not going to give up trying to write it anytime soon. I would probably like it a heck of a lot more if I was also writing poetry right now.

After sending off the manuscript, I went on a writing hiatus and then a vacay to Chattanooga, TN (which was lovely), but I couldn’t stop thinking about writing! why wasn’t I writing! that tree! it’s pretty! oh wow! more pretty trees! I should write about them! what about reading! what husband and great friends? read, read, read! no, not read, WRITE!

What is all this pointing at? There’s no such thing as a “break” from writing (how many times do I have to learn this lesson?), and I need to find that “spark” to get back into writing poetry. Prompts might be a good start. But, wait, not until after I send off these last two manuscript packets. grumblegrumblegrumble

May we all get there (see definition above) soon…(or if you’re already there, TELL ME YOUR SECRET!)


4 thoughts on “Weekly Update: Are we there* yet?

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