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The Early Stages of Writing a Poetry Collection

If you’re following this blog, amidst the random posts on letter writing, kid lit, and other assorted things, you’ve seen a few posts about me working on a poetry collection. This is my first. I’ve written single poems for prompts, competitions, and personal ideas off and on for many years now, always thinking that one day I’d like to create a collection but never really sure what that would look like.

More than a year and a half ago I had an idea for a poem that slowly morphed into an idea for a themed collection based on the instrumental music of a single artist. I sat on the idea for quite a long time, thinking over possible ways I could approach a larger project like this, before I picked up the pen and began writing November of last year. (I also realized that a poem finished earlier in 2016 fit the collection, so wooo head start!)

But here’s the thing… while there are lots of wonderful blogs and vlogs walking writers through the process of novels, there isn’t so much material out there for poets writing a collection. I have articles saved with suggestions for submitting your work, organizing a collection (once the work is done), and promoting your book. Noooot so much the ‘here’s a blank page, now start your collection’ sort of references. Continue reading

A Few Days of Crippling Self-Doubt

Writers (and other creative people) have this thing where we usually doubt ourselves. A lot. I can’t even quite explain to someone who doesn’t fight with this just how much we doubt.

This is me. Except, you know, without the book deal to soften the feelings.

I love Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s work. SO MUCH. Everyone should be reading her stuff. (Click on the comic and it will take you over to her site.)

My confidence in being a writer and in trying to become a well-published writer has its hills and valleys. There’s pretty much always a quiet voice in the back of my mind that asks me what I think I’m doing. Couldn’t my time be spent on something with a more guaranteed outcome? Like theoretical physics?

About a week ago that voice got really, really loud. Continue reading

Tracking Creative Progress and Becoming a Writer

2017… the year I’m trying to get serious about being a poet. And about allowing myself more creative time in general.

I’ve been using the awesome (and incredibly simple) app Timesheet to track how much time I’m giving to writing and how much time is going to a given project. In January I tallied an impressive 35 minutes. Total. But in January I also gave most of my creative time to a photo book project. Many, many hours in fact. It was something I was passionate about creating and have been putting off because I’ve been terrible about allowing myself time to work on creative projects at all. I’m thrilled with the end result. And I’m learning how to give myself time for the creative projects I really want to work on, not just writing… and how to gently let go of the projects begun that became a burden instead of a joy.

I’m doing better with writing this month, and even though I haven’t clocked a lot of hours yet I have seen definite progress on my project. I’ve also taken on a commission for the first time. A small project for a friend who needed some poetry in her story. I’ve got a good start on it and am waiting for more notes from her before I launch into finishing it up. I’ve never tried to write something that isn’t a vision in my own head before, so this is good practice, even if not something I’d normally do.  Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016 in Review

You may have noticed I dropped off and didn’t keep up with updates (on here OR Facebook) as intended. This November was… rough. So here’s a few thoughts on NaNoWriMo for 2016:

  1. This November was determined to not be cooperative. At least in the realm of writing. In the first place, I’ve taken a few years off NaNo and honestly forgotten just how much I have to learn to say no both to others and myself in favor of having the time to write. Also that this is not something to feel guilty over… it’s 30 days out of the whole year. But here are a few reasons this November was extra topsy-turvy:
    1. My best friend’s car met an already-dead woodland creature on the road and thus died itself. I am happy to help be a ride, offered right away and don’t regret it one bit, but it does require extra time.
    2. I also heard from friends who found a newly-orphaned baby kitty who needed a home right away… and put best friend in touch with them. Baby kitty now has a safe and happy home!! The story couldn’t have a better ending. But baby kitties, especially ‘found’ ones, require things to help get them in perfect health, and this also takes time.
    3. Hubby has been having increasing back pain for months now and this month it finally hit a peak that has kept him from working all but the absolutely-required hours at work. We’re in the process of helping him get better and may finally have some answers, but less money + his inability to help with housework has taken away writing time as well. The only thing I regret about this is that he doesn’t feel better. I want to see him pain free. Hopefully that is on the horizon.
    4. I have been dealing with a resurgence of my own health issues. Thankfully none of the severe ones, but mostly the ones that cause low-level all-over pain as well as higher levels of fatigue. The extra responsibilities at this time contribute so that there isn’t much left over at the end of the day. I’d rather sleep than write. And sometimes that’s how it has to be.
    5. ALL OF THAT BEING SAID… that’s life. I regret none of it. Feel animosity toward none of it. This year especially seems to have beat up nearly the entire world. I only list these things as examples that sometimes there are other things that need taking care of in life, and it’s okay to give over to handling those things. Just don’t forget yourself when ‘other things’ begin to calm down once more.
  2. I finished at 17 hours, 1 minute. A far cry from my 50 hours goal. I honestly had no concept of 50 hours in regards to normal daily life, let alone the messy side of life I’ve been dealing with lately. That’s a LOT of time in addition to a full time job and other responsibilities. I will likely try for it again in 2017, but I now have a better understanding and appreciation for how much time that is and what it requires me to do.
  3. I may have only hit 34% of goal, but it was a wonderfully productive month for me. I feel like I absolutely did the right thing in waiting to begin this project during NaNo.
    1. I finished 1 poem, full edits, and am nearly done with a 2nd. This is not going to sound impressive. For me, I’m pleased. I’ve never tackled a full length collection, let alone with a theme, from scratch. I have recently been going MONTHS without picking up a pen at all; I’m out of practice.
    2. I am learning to sit and work at writing even when I don’t feel incredibly inspired. This is the ‘magic’ level of being a writer I’ve never really hit before. No inspiration has always equaled no writing. I’m learning to wake inspiration up by sitting down with my pen before she shows up on her own.
    3. I’m learning my own process of creating poetry, especially from a blank page / free writing stage. Notably I’m learning to NOT give up on the poem when I go from messy free write to really, really bad rhyming verse. This seems to be a common ‘second step’ for me on my way to the end product. It’s just a sign that a poem is beginning to form, not that it will be stuck there. Don’t give up.
    4. I’ve discovered that the more I work on my own poetry, the more ‘hungry’ I get for reading the work of others. I absolutely have to refill the tank. It’s even more satisfying to read the work of amazing poets when I feel like my poetry tank is empty. The best words and lines spark that much brighter. Most recent read? “The Robot Scientist’s Daughter” by Jeannine Hall Gailey. Highly recommended.
  4. This project is going to take a year at best. Any less and I will have rushed through it. I know me and my abilities (at least as they are at this time) and know this to be true. It is likely it will take longer, and if that is what creates the best work I am capable of, then so be it. I don’t want to hurry this and mess it up. But I got enough momentum going this month that I trust myself to not give up. Even taking a week away from writing gave me the itch to sit down for at least a couple of hours one afternoon and work.

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2016: Week 2 Recap

This post is a couple of days late, but I’m here! I’m still kicking! At this point I don’t see how 50 hours will happen, but I’m certainly not giving up.

The weekend saw a couple of good writings days, but I’m woefully behind. So far behind that at this point, my more serious goal is 25 hours. (Though the insane part of me does still whisper in my ear that 50 could happen…)

I finished day 14 at 10 hours, 38 minutes of time logged.

Keep in mind that I’m not counting any time my brain wanders to thinking about my project during the day. Or any time I may be vaguely thinking about it in between more serious writing sessions while I do other things. I’m only logging focused time on the project. Butt in chair, pen in hand, total focus. My brain is getting tired… I forgot how much creative focus can be a mental drain!

I’m also starting to feel ‘hungry’ for other poetry. I’m draining so much out of my head that I need to replenish it with the awesome words of others. Thankfully I own at least a few poetry books and have been rereading through those, plus I picked up a new book from the library just yesterday. There’s some poetry books on my Christmas list (*fingers crossed!*) and a friend just got me a subscription to Southern Poetry Review for my birthday so I’m very excited! Not to mention the second issue of Outlook Springs should be headed my way soon too. Plenty of new words to consume in 3, 2, 1…

I’ve been very scattered with my writing this last week. Working for 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there… having difficulty getting any one piece to talk to me strongly, but making sure I take the time to be quiet and focus on each one in case they’re just being quiet. This is a change for me, and a positive one. I’m trying to stop writing ‘only when I’m inspired’.

The good news? I finished a new poem! Edits and all. It’s the second complete poem of the collection. (I realized that one of the poems I finished in the spring was actually the beginning to the collection I thought I hadn’t started yet. Funny how that works sometimes.) Two poems hardly make a collection, but they are a beginning. Perhaps I can finish at least one more before the month is up? Retraining your brain, your creativity, and your motivation is hard…

NaNoWriMo 2016: Week 1 Recap

And so November has begun! I’ll be posting once a week with an update on how the writing is going for the month, and I hope you’ll check in for that! You can also follow my Facebook page for daily (or near-daily) updates.

Note: After November my blog may not be quite as busy for a time, but I’ll still be around. I don’t want this blog to turn into what my previous blogs have been, a race just to post something within a certain time frame. You may have noticed there are a few categories on this blog with no (or few) posts yet. I promise they’re coming. Some of them are just much more time intensive and why would anyone want to read a post that I don’t feel like putting my heart into writing? Those categories are place-holders and will slowly be filled.

This year, NaNoWriMo is not only about starting a new project for me, but also learning to allow myself to do something I love. I’ve known for a long time that I’m holding myself back, but it hasn’t been until the last couple of months that I’ve worked out at least part of my mindset behind it. This NaNoWriMo is a small step in taking back part of my creative self.

In case you haven’t read this post yet, I’m being a NaNo rebel and working on my first poetry collection. I’m not about to write 50,000 words of poetry (even really, really BAD poetry), so my goal is to commit 50 hours of time this month to working on that collection.

It’s been a slow start. But I expected that. As of the end of Nov 7th I have given the project 3 hours and 41 minutes of time. I have some serious catching up to do! Keep in mind that I only count completely focused and dedicate time. Idle wandering as I think things over, internet researchings, etc. are not being counted. I don’t think that’s fair.

Want to follow 5 writers (and not just me) this November? Make sure to check out the Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society’s blog (my writing group) for weekly updates too! Here’s the first week: NaNoWriMo Week One! – Ferret Updates

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or any other writing project this month? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

NaNoWriMo 2016: Poetry Collection, Coming Right Up!

I finally have a solid idea for what might be my first collection. Certainly my first consciously themed poetry project. It began as an idea for a single poem. Specifically, a title. When I couldn’t pin down what I wanted to write, having too many options, I thought perhaps it would be a few poems or a poem in many parts. Before long I realized that the concept I had was not for just one or two poems, but a theme for a collection.

I’ve been tossing it around in my head for well over a full year now, and seeing as how it won’t go away I think I need to work on it. Unfortunately wanting to write it does not immediately make it appear as a bestseller on the shelves of Barnes and Noble tomorrow. I can daydream all I want about it, but if I think about all of the steps it will take to get it into published form I won’t even start. There’s simply too many. (And this is where a lot of writers in all genres get stuck.) Instead I’m working on a game plan to get around to writing it in the first place.

I’m afraid if I tackle it now, while I’m still only writing in fits and starts, I won’t stick to it, no matter how much this project means to me. So instead, I’m using NaNoWriMo this year to kick off. If I can dig my claws in deep, I don’t think I’ll let the project go even if I can’t devote time to it at a consistent pace after November. In the spirit of 50 (since NaNoWriMo’s goal is 50,000 words), I pledge 50 hours of “butt in chair” time, all to this project (unless another poem that doesn’t fit just insists on not waiting, you know how it goes).

Does that mean I’ll stop at 50 hours? Of course not! I hope to spend more time! But I will do everything in my power that month to see that I devote at least 50 hours. If I spend that much time focusing, I know I will get something written. Even on my day-dreamiest days I can’t spend a full hour staring at an empty page without writing SOMETHING before I give up. 50 hours will equal progress, even if I can’t guess how much.

journal and pensSo until November starts I’m quietly working on the logistics in my head. I have a few different ways the collection could be arranged, and while I won’t worry too strongly about that until it is nearing completion, the core ideas for arrangement in my head I am trying to sort because they will at least partially determine how I go about writing.

All I can say is that my favorite pens and a shiny new journal (picked up during last year’s writing retreat with the Ferret girls; I told you this has been in my head for awhile) are ready to go!

Thoughts on Rejection

We are now over the hump of the first half of the year and this is right about the time I’d love to be announcing “Guess what? I had work accepted for publication!!” Unfortunately… that’s not the case. And it’s awful easy to feel down about it.

Some rejections I expected. Big publications that accept a very small volume of work. But hey, pie in the sky, right? The answer is always no if they don’t even see your work.

Other rejections I had hoped not to see, felt like I had a better chance of finding placement, but in the end it was not to be. Once again… small volume of work accepted. Maybe I just wasn’t a good fit for the editor.

But at the same time my feelings on the matter are still bolstered this year. Continue reading

Never Say Never

Honestly this isn’t bad advice for life, but I think it is even more appropriate for artists of all kinds. Never say you will never try out a different form of your art.

swings, two swingsIn 2011, I wrote a piece I called “Swing Set Sonnet”. I loved the title then and still do now. I will freely admit I’m addicted to alliteration. It happens without me even thinking about it. (I even promise my admission was not alliterated on purpose!) But I forced the image I had to work within the constraints of a sonnet – something it firmly did not want to do – all because I loved my title. This was an awful idea. Instead of letting my poem find the form it needed, I bullied it into being something that could never work. Continue reading

Sometimes the Words Aren’t There

I’ve been having trouble writing. No difficulties with ideas as it seems there are dozens of things that grab me and hold me in the moment, making me think, “Ah, yes, I want to paint this in words.” But the moment I sit down to do something with an idea it either remains frustratingly close at hand, bowling me over with emotion, yet granting me not even the plainest of words to preserve it, or it flutters away entirely.

This may be even more frustrating than lacking ideas. I’m toppling over with things to say, and the outlet I use to say them is broken.

Erin Coughlin Hollowell wrote a post on this a few weeks ago, or at least about her own version of this feeling. She mentioned something that rings very true for me as well when she said “I need to be able to drop into that deep quiet where my poems come from. That deep quiet has been very elusive.”

That quiet has found its own island away from me and forgot to leave behind a plane ticket so I could follow. There’s been so much going on the last couple of months that even though I have wanted to write, sometimes even desperately, I just haven’t been able to put anything worthwhile to page. My head has been wrapped up in car troubles and financial troubles and job troubles and health troubles and very not in tune with pretty words. Unfortunately.

What is fortunate is the fact that many of those things seem to have either straightened themselves out or are well on their way toward doing so. I’ll keep trying to write and maybe I’ll find my words again soon.

Erin also linked to another post within her blog, a recent one by poet Ada Limón, and I think it is a fantastic read for any writer, but especially poets. It is worth a few minutes of your day to look it over. For now though, there is one particular quote I want to share from that post, and these are the words I will leave you with for today:

“I suddenly feel like there should be a permission slip for writers. Something you can sign for someone that says, “You don’t always have to write. You have permission to just be in the world and grieve and laugh and live and do your damn laundry.”