Monday, July 22, 2013

Writing Writing Writing—and Not Writing

What I’m really learning here is that I can’t work very successfully on more than one writing project at a time. I’m trying to finish my poetry collection—that’s mostly done, but there are several poems that might stand some revision, many poems to send out to journals for publication, contests to enter, money to toss away on contest fees. However long it takes me to actually place the book, I’ll essentially still be writing it and working on it, even though in theory it’s done.

Then there’s the memoir project, without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write. The need for sustained attention to a difficult period in the past really just livens up the present, let’s just say. Most of what I’ve written is really just awful, too, though I do have several short chapters that are quite good—these are giving me hope that there might be value in this project, but I’m not used to writing this much awful stuff anymore! It’s demoralizing! Add in the whole needing therapy thing, and wow, this is exhausting.

Because I am a broke academic who doesn’t get paid in the summer, and because I still haven’t learned not to overcommit myself, I’m also working on two grant projects. One is to develop a new online course, which is fascinating but very demanding. The other is to complete an article on women writing about their experiences of sexuality, also fascinating, but I’ve just found that I can’t wrap my head around but so many writing projects in a day, and this one, the least urgent, is suffering.

And finally, I leave tomorrow morning for the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, for almost two weeks of workshops on my poems. Sewanee is a venerable conference, my workshop teacher won a Pulitzer, and I can still scarcely believe I’m going at all. My friend Fran told me today, while you’re there, don’t be a professor or a mother or a wife, just be a poet. How? These threads of my identity tangle together (just like our sorry attempts at knots for Scouts! to use a bad yet fitting metaphor!) and it’s hard to imagine separating them. I also can’t imagine being away from home and my family for two weeks! And my new baby kitty!

Still—I have a crate of books packed, books by the faculty I’ll be working with, my mythology books, my little Bastet, that sort of thing—and tomorrow afternoon I’ll stack them up on my desk in the dorm at the University of the South—and enter a new world. Drink the wine—but stay away from the pomegranates…