Blergh and More Blergh: Notes from the Week

11.13.18: Just logging this here, as one does when one keeps a blog that tracks one's writing process: I've reached a weird, uncomfortable place with the poetry manuscript. Here's a list of my ridiculous fears/problems:
  1. I fear I've jinxed myself by calling this collection of poems a manuscript.
  2. I've written myself into a weird space with the narrative arc. I don't know where to go next.
  3. I'm not having as much fun writing the poems, which tells me they probably aren't good.
  4. Part of this is because my mind feels pretty divided. Feeling like I should be grading instead of writing really squashes creativity.
  5. Blergh.
Little Miss Kindergartner is learning to write.
11.15.18: Feeling better. Did some whining in the above notes, got that out of my system, and then managed to write another two poems I kinda like. So. In one of my "I-don't-know-what-to-write-lemme-look-over-what-I-already-have" moods, I noticed that since September, I wrote about 9 poems in one two week period, then 6 in the next two weeks, and then 9 again, and then 6 again. In both of those 6-poem periods, I was nearing the end of a section in the MS. I haven't given much thought to what that means. But it probably indicates something, right? (Like, maybe, how I avoid grading AND writing by making random observations about my practice . . .)

11.17.18: Long Form Friday was a complete fail this week. It involved a number of false starts and having to run errands for my family (*cough* the teenager *cough*). By the time I returned home after running all over this godforsaken island, I was more or less shot. Also, I woke up this morning with a massive head cold, so the fact that I was coming down with an illness probably had something to do with my lack of motivation and focus, too. 

Anyway, I'm going to focus on grading right now; it would be nice to get papers back to students this week, before the Thanksgiving holiday. I managed to get a good deal done on Wednesday of this week. Maybe if I can maintain that momentum, and get most of this crap back to the students, I'll clear up enough head space to focus on my writing. And maybe I should just acknowledge that the last one-two months of a semester are never, ever going to be especially fruitful or productive when it comes to my writing. 

Double Blergh. Blergh blergh. Or something.


Lissa Clouser said…
I know it's really easy to feel down on yourself when you're overwhelmed (which I imagine keeping up with grading can be overwhelming) or when you're just not where you want to be at with a project.

It sounds to me like you're doing a great job though. Averaging 15 poems a month is brilliant! Especially while keeping up with daily life. I hope to just manage 15 a year soon, let alone monthly. I admire (and okay, envy a little) poets who can write more quickly.

If you don't mind me asking, how did you come up with a game plan to tackle a manuscript (rather than just pulling one together from a pile of many, many poems). I'm getting into this stage myself and I'm a baby at this process. Looking to learn from as many poets as I can.
Hi Lissa,

Thank you for the good cheer -- I need it lately!

With these poems, I began writing with two "characters" in mind. The very first poem featured these characters, and then I wanted to write another poem with them, and then another. So from the beginning, even though I didn't have a specific plot in mind, I had a feeling I was writing something narrative. I just didn't know if it would be a small project (like a chapbook) or something longer (like a full-length). OR, another possibility, just a failed exercise that I shelve eventually. The latter might still be true . . . but in good faith, I started to organize the poems as I wrote them.

To do this, I always look at the new poem in relation to the old poems and judge, quickly, where it might fall -- keeping in mind that later, when I get to a genuine editing stage (when I'm done creating), I can always move things around and cut poems out, etc. I keep two logs: One, of the chronological order of the poems (the order in which they were written) and two, a temporary table of contents that pays more attention to how the poems interact with one another. It's a little OCD, but I like looking at how my intuition works (the chronological) compared to my more analytical side (the temp table of contents).

Also, as I write them I just pay attention to where I feel a particular "episode" in the narrative is coming to a close, and then I start a new section -- so now the MS is at four sections, moving into a fifth, which I feel will be the final act.

So that's my process. It's kind of a work-in-progress. I don't reread the entire collection often, but I will every once in a while, in order to figure out where there might be holes in the narrative, or figure out where the narrative might head. I'm kind of stuck right now with regards to where it might head. Hence the frustration!

Are you constructing a new MS by looking at that collection of many, many poems, or are you doing something similar to what I'm doing (writing an MS with a fixed central idea)?
Lissa Clouser said…
The current MS I'm actively trying to work on is something I'm attacking, at least a little, with a fixed central idea already. (I figure I won't tackle the other version of a new MS until I have a nice stack of miscellany I feel is quality enough to sift through.)

To be entirely honest though I still feel a bit like I'm floundering. I've definitely hit the stage where I no longer feel like I'm just playing at poetry, I feel like I'm serious about it, but I also don't feel like I'm serious *enough* if that makes sense. Kind of feel like someone handed me a bucket while I'm standing on the beach with the advice that it's okay, you only have to empty a LITTLE of the ocean. lol

It has been difficult finding support and direction.

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