Some Thoughts on Revision and Ambition and the Purpose of this Blog

This morning I revised the first stanza of the poem I've been working on all week. That's right folks, all week. And it took me an hour to "finish" with the revision, and I didn't even actually finish it (pushing aside all discussion of whether or not one is truly finished with a poem). I had to change the rhyme in the couplet at the end of the stanza, and even though I'm using slant rhyme, it totally stumped me. So now the first and third stanzas are hanging out all sloppy and unfinished. Which is NOT how I like them. (Shut up, Penna.)

At this rate I should be finished with my manuscript in the year 2030. In the words of Charlie Brown, good f**kin' grief.

This all sounds like griping, I know, but if you were a fly on the wall during any of my TRUE gripe sessions with Penna, WELL, let's just say you would feel mighty sorry for him. This is nothing! He WOULD tell you, however, that I am notoriously slow with my writing. (Notorious in, you know, all the right circles . . . Good lord, I sound like a douche.)

I like revision, though. I find the initiation of a poem -- the part that most writers thrive on, I think, and feel exhilarated by -- to be the most torturous part. You wouldn't know it to look at my house or the ambiguous stacks of paper on my desk at work, but I LOVE putting things in order. Give me the material and I'm gold.

Honestly, this is probably a good indicator that I'm not much of a creative writer. A writer, maybe; a deft manipulator of words is different than a person who can take those words in new directions. But I will chug on, despite the warnings that the bridge ahead is out . . . this new manuscript may end up being a disaster, but for once, I'm going to ride this disaster to the bitter end. I'm tired of my projects ending up half-finished because I ran out of faith in my poems or myself or both.

And this time, I do have to finish the project. My sabbatical -- which I begin this fall -- is based on the completion of a collection of poems and a full-length (70-100 minutes) verse drama. Because I'm an idiot. An enthusiastic, well-meaning idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

Ambition has always thrived in me. This isn't, necessarily, a good thing. It means that I tend to excel at making plans -- there's lots of stuff I want to do, many tasks I wish to undertake, many travels I wish to embark on, blah blah blah. But ambition does not equal staying power, and I tend to either run out of steam or, as I mentioned above, self-esteem. Some of this is because I haven't exactly excelled in my field. The last poem I had published, in May of this year, was the first to be published in 11 years. That's a long effin' time, and not only is that lack of validation detrimental to the way I see myself as a writer, but it's dangerous where my job is concerned, too, because I need publication in order to keep my tenure and be promoted.

And really, my lack of publication is due to a combination of many factors, but a LARGE part of it results from the way I neglected to submit my work regularly to magazines over those 11 years. If you're not submitting anything, of course you aren't being published! I suppose my self-esteem would be far worse if I'd tripled or quadrupled my output in both writing and submissions over the past decade, and STILL didn't have the publications to show for it, and perhaps that's part of why I didn't submit my work all that often. But I feel deep down that I might have had SOMETHING published if I'd put a little more effort into getting my work out there.

And so. There you have it. My sabbatical this fall begins now, with this past week, and I'm going to keep this blog during the sabbatical as a way of recording my process so that I have something I can put into my report for the committee come January 2011. (A trick I totally stole from Penna -- although you'll notice, dear reader, how incredibly eloquent and much more serious and thoughtful he is on HIS blog. By comparison, this blog sounds like it was written by someone who stuck a sharpened pencil in her ear).

This means my audience will remain small, if an audience for such meanderings exists at all. Who else out there is a whiny, wannabe poet and academic with two children and a dissolving sense of sanity?


mugwatch said…
I really like what you say about ambition. I have the same problems. *sigh*

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