01 January 2018

Now let me clear my throat.



Dang, this new year feels new. Like a chill through the sinuses, or a wind that you feel in every seam of your jacket. It's cold and unshakable, but undeniably crisp.

I've accepted the challenge of blogging regularly here at The Word Cage again. I often have much to say, but save it for my students or the twitter.

What a whirlwind of a 2017. The University of Akron Press went to the National Book Awards to cheer on Leslie Harrison's The Book of Endings. Black Lawrence Press accepted my first collection of prose poems, Partial Genius, for publication in 2019. I read many stunning books and worked with brilliant student writers. I finally got around to organizing some parts of my life. I started sending poems out again after an unintentional hiatus.

Rather than setting resolutions, today I'll share two revelations that I've had in the past year, as a writer and a human. Maybe you'll find them helpful, too.

#1: It's okay to stop "customer servicing" when you are not on duty. I learned how to be a good worker by working really hard, and that meant taking orders without challenging authority, and doing everything possible to make sure that supervisors or customers or vendors were pleased with me. Want to order six mugs of sudsy dish water? Certainly, sir! Remove every trace of okra from this soup? Absolutely.

In 2017 I gave myself the permission to stop customer servicing all the time, especially when outside of work, or when it could potentially do me harm or weaken a boundary. When you are always trying to make everyone happy with their meal/experience/new baby doll dress, it subjects your own happiness to an impossible standard. I imagine I'll have more to say about this in the coming months.

#2: You can say less for the sake of less. I have some stringent but ultimately helpful guidelines that I honed in 2017. If I am writing an email and frustrated or angry, my limit is two sentences. If I am defending myself for some reason, I now use terms like "unworkable" and "regrettably," whereas before I might have launched into a detailed treatise on all affronts and hardships and such. I give myself two key terms. They should be words that are difficult to use in a poem without serious finessing. Then I hit "send" and try to let go. It's challenging for somebody who likes to provide extensive support for all assertions, but a useful practice. I think of this as the post-oven result of a Shrinky Dink. Compact, crystallized, unbending.

I'll be using this space to talk about writing and life. I also blog over at my website, with more photos and things related to my poems and publishing.

This semester I am teaching Writers on Writing, where we read advice from various authors and talk about our creativity and what feeds or starves it. I plan to share some of those thoughts here.

One actual resolution that I have this year is to make a physical, handwritten list of every book I read. I try to keep a list on Goodreads, but it's often incomplete (and stacked with books I haven't finished...eep).

2018 is here. I've recovered from being pretty sick. I'm writing a lot but have no idea what I'm doing, and that's okay. In other words, everything is exactly as it should be.



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