Leaving my desk

January 6th, 2012

I came across a comment on Twitter that I’m never going to find again and thus will never be able to quote accurately or properly attribute, but basically it said: The poetry world would be a lot more pleasant if all poets took up a non-poetry related hobby. (If any of you recognize that tweet, please by all means let me know the source in the comments.)

This is my dilemma again and again about how to use my limited child-free time. There are other things I should be doing (maybe actually moving my body sometimes) and want to be doing (more with the garden, photography, getting back on the bike, learning to knit), but every hour I spend doing something that’s not writing is one less hour I have for writing. And yet I know that I’m happier, more interesting, and a better writer when I actually do more than write.

The hockey school turned out to be a great decision and it’s hard to believe now that I had stomachache-inducing angst about it. I have, for the first time since I quit teaching before I even got pregnant with Small Boy, work friends. Sometimes, after the Thursday night training, we go upstairs to the stadium restaurant and have a drink. Parents recognize me and the kids, even the ones who I’ve never worked with because they already knew how to skate, say hi; this afternoon at Small Boy’s Bambini training The World’s Cutest Hockey Player sought me out three times to say hello (her older brother is on SB’s team). (And I’m not joking, this girl is THE WORLD’S CUTEST HOCKEY PLAYER EVER!) All the other trainers, and the vast majority of the parents, are Swiss and it feels like I have a Swiss life for the first time. It only took me ten years. And because it’s my job – seriously, they even put money in my bank account – I have to do it and I have to be there and it forces me to do something other than hole up and write.

Holing up and writing is great, and I excel at the holing up aspect of it, but when you sit in the same place all the time you always have the same view; I mean that literally and metaphorically. I think most writers can relate to the feeling that there is not enough time in the day – and there is never enough time in the day – and the temptation to chain ourselves to our desks is powerful. Certainly if there is a deadline looming we have to chain ourselves to our desks, especially if there is a paycheck involved, but most days I think I would be better off if I did the counter-intuitive and left my desk behind for a bit. Most days I don’t do that; I think “I should go for a walk” but never get up or I think “I should try to meet up with a friend one Monday” and then never schedule it. This is why the hockey school has been so good. Twice a week I go do something radically different, mildly physical (it’s not so strenuous down at my end of the rink), highly social, and all mine. And non-poetry related.

And that last aspect of it is turning out to be the most interesting of all. Hockey school ends the last day of February (the unpredictable playoff schedule of our professional team makes scheduling practices in the Arena nearly impossible, and the outdoor rink closes mid-March, so we use March 1 as an easy end date) and I’m going to need to find something else to do. Something physical and preferably outdoors. Writers, what are your non-writing passions? How important are your non-work related hobbies to you?

Writing goals: 2011 wrap-up and 2012 goals

January 2nd, 2012

I took a look back at my writing goals for 2011 and I see that I didn’t accomplish a single one of them. I started the year intending to:

  • Write 52 new poems. How did I do?┬áIt’s possible, if I count all the jottings and rushed drafts that are clearly going nowhere, that I wrote 52 drafts in 2011, but I think the real count, still a bit generous, falls at 42.
  • Submit to 20 journals. How did I do? I sent out fifteen packages last year.
  • Attend a juried workshop. I didn’t attend a live workshop last year, but I workshopped twice on-line with Kim Addonizio and both workshops were amazing, challenging, and extraordinary helpful. I’m starting another eight week session with her on the ninth, and for anybody out there looking for an on-line poetry workshop that’s really going to kick your butt and be worth the money, Kim’s is it.
  • I wanted a contest ready chapbook by September, and here I fell furthest from the goal. Not even close. In fact, now I have two half-way chapbooks instead of one finished one because half-way through the year I started writing a series of poems on a theme.
  • Two blog posts a week. Also, no. I had 77 posts in 2011; twice a week would have been 104.
  • Read 52 poetry collections. I read 32 books for the first time and re-read some old favorites.

And yet I feel like it was, on balance, a good year. I got a lot done, even if I didn’t reach my target numbers on, well, anything. I learned a lot, had some mild successes, and got better at what I do. It feels like a win.

Not having a chapbook together is starting to sting; it seems like that’s something I should have put together by now. Maybe the problem lies in not knowing how to put a collection together; perhaps I’m trying too hard to have everything relate to a theme; perhaps I’m simply not ready to be thinking about collections yet. I don’t know. The chapbook goal, that’s the wild card every year.

My goals for 2012 are essentially the same:

  • Produce 52 decent drafts
  • Continue to strive for a daily writing practice
  • Post to my blog twice a week
  • Enter poems in one contest
  • Send out 20 packages
  • Participate in two writing workshops, either live or on-line
  • Finish the in progress chapbook (if only in terms of sheer number of poems). I’ll eliminate the requirement that it be “contest ready” but dang it, I want to finish this project at this point if only for the sake of finishing the project.
  • Build relationships with other writers

Watching the Small Boy at hockey practice is one of my greater joys; I love to watch him give his honest best, to work so hard. I tell him, honestly, to just keep doing what he’s doing. If he continues to work as hard as he does now, improvement will come and he’ll be fine. He’ll surely be ready for the next age group up when he ages out of Bambinis if he keeps doing what he’s doing. He’s vastly better than he was in September, and he was making really rapid progress until he was side-lined by his concussion. Just keep doing what you’re doing, I tell him, and you’ll be fine. That’s the ultimate goal, to be as clear-eyed about my own progress as I can be about his, as I’m trying to teach him to be about his own self.

Whenever Small Boy has to play a team he’s lost to before, I tell him: “That game is over. Today is today. You play today’s game.” I think that’s going to be my motto for the year.