Dedication, Focus, Elbow Grease, and the Conspicuous Absence of Shiny and Blue Things

After several years of writing, it's comforting to know that you can change and be changed by your writing processes. It's affirmation, I guess, that some parts of you are still growing, and changing without shutting down -- unlike other parts of your being, like your skin and your hair. (Hi sunspots! Hey grey hairs! I'm old!)

Yesterday, after having a fairly successful day of writing, I was thinking about how very different my habits have become since I was given this time to write. For years -- years -- I felt an impediment that I called "writer's block" but was probably just good ol' fashioned mania. I never really slowed down long enough -- or separated myself from work, family, and outside noise for long enough -- to focus earnestly on my writing.

To be honest, I'm not even sure I did that during grad school -- the one (or most likely) time in your life you're given explicit permission by family, society, and your checkbook to focus entirely on your writing. I think was a little star-struck, by both my teachers and my peers (many of whom seemed better read and more talented than I). (Me? I? They were probably better grammarians . . .) And I lacked the maturity, despite having been out of college for several years, to be truly, truly disciplined about this part of my education. New York is both a great and a terrible place to receive your education. There are lots of distractions. (And I'm not talking about drugs and alcohol. I am easily distracted by shiny and/or blue things, and there are many of these in NYC.)

Anyway, I lacked focus. Today at our Poetry Friday Diner Breakfast, A.P. told me that -- good news! -- my Mushy Mom Brain might actually be disappearing. I find it hard to believe him, because he wasn't around when I walked into our downstairs bathroom this morning and promptly forgot what I'd walked in there to retrieve -- but he claims that he sees more focus and clarity in my writing.

It's good news to know that what I feel when I write these days is translating positively into what I write. Never, before this semester, have I sat for four consecutive hours and worked on one poem. Previous to my sabbatical, I simply jotted lines down in a journal when inspiration struck, and then later took out the journal, and typed the draft into the computer, and then spent random, short spurts of time editing and tweaking it. Of course, because I'm obsessive-compulsive about "gettin' it right", that meant I would take about four weeks, not four straight hours, to finish a poem.

Of course, I wasn't trying to write long poems, or metered poems, back then. When one is writing metered verse, not to mention ten-plus pages of it, one tends to require extended periods of time. I guess what I'm saying is that I wonder if I'll be able to write a long poem when I return to teaching. A. P. said today that the good habits I develop over sabbatical won't magically disappear when the new semester begins. I sure hope so -- it's been so . . . gratifying . . . to discover that I'm capable of doing so much more than what I'd become accustomed to writing. I would hate to go backwards, somehow, or just . . . stop . . . completely. How depressing.

I think I'll continue, at least for the spring semester, to use my early morning before-the-kids-are-awake time to write, so that I attempt to maintain this focus and heightened sense of purpose. Of course, it won't be four hours at a time, just two, and I don't know what that means for my running, which I used to do during that time, and which, this semester, has been sadly neglected (but that neglect was necessary, I suppose).

Anyway. Time to wrap up. Little Miss Talkalot is about to get off the bus. And it's Friday, which means no homework, which means I'm on instant Mom-Mom-Mom-Pay-Attention-to-Me-Hey-Do-You-Wanna-Play-UNO duty. And then we go pick up the boy, who was SUPER happy with me this morning. Hopefully his mood has improved. Also, hopefully he's forgotten that I wouldn't let him watch TV before we had to leave. (He was soooo mad! Three year old tantrums are awesome.)

I'll announce (so official!) that I managed to finish Chapter V of the fairy tale this week (which needs some tweaking, but will be toyed with once I've actually finished the fairy tale) and that I also managed to write and finish -- after having such a bad writing day on Wednesday -- an entire myth poem. So I'm ending the week on a high note. Next week: Chapters Six and Seven of the fairy tale. And perhaps more submissions to literary journals! (Lucky journals!)


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