writing life

On Resolve

on resolve new year's resolution
To help my four-year-old boys’ learn how to make a resolution, I purchased, “Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution,” by Pat Miller. The core message is summed up when Bear, the librarian at Lonewood Library, explains a New Year’s Resolution to Squirrel. “A resolution is a promise you make to yourself to be better or to help others,” he says. “When we begin a new year we make a fresh start.” This year, the boys have resolved to carry groceries into the house. A solid first resolution.

In 2018, I will transition from being a stay-at-home-mom working part-time to a mother of school-aged children working…well, that is what I get to figure out. It’s not the first time I have realigned my goals with the entry of a child into school. My eldest is now twenty. Fifteen years ago, as he went into kindergarten, I attended classes at the community college, putting myself on a direct path toward what I dreamed of doing as work: writing.

Since then, I have received undergraduate and graduate degrees, published a poetry chapbook, as well as, several poems, essays and articles in various journals. All of this work was accomplished first as a single mother, then during the recession when my family (my eldest son and new husband) had to relocate for income, the birth and rearing of twin boys, and the care giving of my mother before her death in 2016.

I’ve also reconnected with family members, bonded new friendships, established a balanced diet and exercise routine, started a web development business, exorcised personal demons, became more engaged in my community, bought a house, and reared a child out of the nest and onto the path of his own artistic pursuits. For the past eleven years, I’ve enjoyed ever-strengthening, never-a-dull-moment, love and support between my husband and me.

What’s next?

2018 New Year’s Resolution

This year I resolve to write a personal and professional mission statement to define who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to accomplish. And then, I live up to that mission.

Learning From My Previous Self

Developing a mission statement and business plan is not altogether new. Five years ago, two writer friends, Claire Guyton and Suzanne Farrell Smith, and I, decided to compose our own Writing Life Business Plans. Each following year we reevaluate and refine our goals.

The deep thinking involved, in creating and revising my plan, kept me connected to writing when two babies took all my brain power and energy. Not to say I hadn’t previously maintained tenacity toward my writing goals during busy times. But nothing kept me more focused (except the community of Claire and Suzanne) then taking the time to figure out where I was as a writer, where I wanted to go, and what I needed to do to get there.

Now I’m on the precipice of the boys’ enrollment in school. Not only will I have more time, I have five years of meticulous preparation under my belt.

My resolution is a natural extension of the Writing Life Business Plan. I don’t bring in enough income from my writing life (yet) to justify not having a second career. Luckily I enjoy web design, so the new mission includes my entrepreneurial pursuits as well. Work I hope to integrate more with my writing goals, creating something altogether new and unexpected.

My plan also addresses what kind of citizen I want to be in my community. Where are my talents and skills needed most?

The personal mission statement? It asks me to look closely at my moral foundation–the precursor to all of it.

Work More and Better

From my first blog post back in 2014: “I resolve to continue integrating my work with my art and my everyday life… I vow to do this year after year after year, turning my lifetime into a series of fulfilling days.”

My days are more integrated, and have become more fulfilling. But I’m not finished. Quite the contrary. 2018 is another year where I begin again, and one of the giants’ shoulders I stand on this time, are my own.

Writing Process Blog Tour

This leg of the Writing Process Blog Tour has hit North Carolina via my beautiful friend and writer, Suzanne Farrell Smith. Suzanne’s essays weave sentiment with science, humility with sin, and humor with heartache. She’s a master seamstress with words and one of the hardest working writers I know. To learn about her process, check it out here.

My day to post, March 10th, came after a weekend of surprise for my 40th birthday: a delectable lunch with my husband at a french restaurant, a party with loved ones and a night off from my seven month old twins. My last night out on the town was in December 2012! Needless to say, I was going to finish this post over the weekend, but here I am the evening of the 10th, by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, getting my thoughts together to make the deadline. Like I mentioned to a friend a couple weeks ago, I’m doing everything by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin these days. Two babies. Need I say more.
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No matter, however busy I am with the boys, keeping my fingers wet with words is a priority. Alas, a glimpse into my process:

What am I working on?
I just finished taking my full-length poetry manuscript and cutting it down into a chapbook. It reads so much tighter and I love it. I have two essays I am working on and I always write poems, or ideas for poems, or revise poems. A couple years ago I started a memoir and after one hundred pages I put it down not knowing where to take it. That looms over my head all the time. Started another new project but that is all I’m going to say about it for now. I’d like to see if it takes flight or not first.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No matter what the subject matter, my writing finds a way to connect the everyday task to the cosmos. Poet Richard Jackson mentioned this when he introduced me at my graduate reading from Vermont College of Fine Arts, saying my work reminded him of what Gaston Bachelard calls ‘Intimate Immensity,’ a term found in The Poetics of Space. Here’s Bachelard: “Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.” Another aspect of my writing was pointed out by my wonderful friend and writer, Claire Guyton, after she read some of my poems: “forcing cliches into freshness is one of your specialties.” I can summarize by saying, I like to refurbish the old into something new and turn the ordinary extraordinary.

Why do I write what I do?
I write poems because I think in interwoven phrases and images. I studied the lyric poem because I wanted to say the most with the least amount of words. Most of my early writing is based on personal experience because I love deciphering the human condition and for me the best way of beginning was to decipher the only human whose brain and emotions I could easily get to. I have since branched out and I love the themes of home and architecture and family and silence and how all those things help me connect to something larger, something beyond my self. As a child I was told that simplicity is beauty and I believe that is what’s behind my desire to unearth the extraordinary in the ordinary. I don’t believe one needs to travel far to experience profundity. I started writing essays to further my exploration. I began writing because I wanted to communicate; I wanted to learn to convey exactly what I was feeling and thinking. I write because it is the most efficient path I’ve found to honesty.

How does my writing process work?
In the morning I write best yet my schedule has changed over the years due to babies and jobs and happenstance that I have taught myself to dip in and out of writing throughout the day. I listen to Philip Glass when I am deep thinking and to Charlie Parker when I am whimsical. The rest of the time I listen to silence. I prefer to have a window for gazing. Place is important so I return to my desk every time I write. I find comfort in having a permanent space for my writing and I require comfort. Ideation happens everywhere but deep writing is only accomplished in my writing space. Attire for my most emotionally difficult material is a bathrobe. For everything else, attire is optional.

Sometimes an image or idea explodes and I freewrite until I have squeezed all I can out if it but most often a piece emerges after long thought-out musings that rattle around in my head. I try to complete pieces on recent experiences but I am unable to so I work through my feelings, place memories on the page and then allow time for the world to influence them. I walk away, sometimes for months or years. I have let pieces sit as long as a decade. There are always open-ended pieces that I dip into for revision, each piece influencing the other. Then comes the time where I am so close to finishing I drop everything else and focus on one piece at a time.

Here is where the tour feeds back on itself. Instead of continuing to a new blog, I leave you with a list of brilliant writers and bloggers who shared (or will be sharing) their process. Enjoy.

Suzanne Farrell Smith
Claire Guyton
Natalia Sarkissian
Diane Lefer
Laurie Cannady
Jeanne Gassman
Jennifer Haugen Koski
James Pounds
Elizabeth Gaucher
Benjamin Woodard
Giano Cromley
Stephanie Friedman

New Year 2014

New Year’s resolutions never work out for me. Either I make my list laden with idealistic goals, forget what was on my list and where I put it, or never make one. Some years, instead of resolutions, I conduct mini Burning Bowl ceremonies, a practice I enjoy more than writing resolutions. I see the Burning Bowl as a way to empty the glass before filling it again with all the accomplishments I want for the next year. I feel kinship with letting go. But, even though I appreciate the symbolism of Burning Bowl ceremonies, I cannot commit to a Burning Bowl every year. Sometimes, I just want the years to bump up against one another and see what happens. I want to feel the worn edge of letting go rub against the vulnerability of starting over. I’m a glutton for the sound of screeching steel as the axle turns; to feel it in my bones, the screeching of time. Often, I just want to enjoy the night as a belly-laughing drunk.

Today, I came across Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Rulin’s in a FB post. His simple, direct Rules spoke to where I am at on this last day of 2013. I’ve adopted his first and last Rules as my own:

#1 Work More and Better
In the spirit of Rilke’s view on work, “We have to mix our work with ourselves at such a deep level that workdays turn into holidays all by themselves, into our actual holidays,” I resolve to continue integrating my work with my art and my everyday life. Integration and balance of the Writing Life is an ongoing conversation with fellow writers that began with an essay series I co-authored with Suzanne Farrell Smith. Working toward every workday being a holiday belongs in the resolution category of idealistic goals. So, I vow to do this year after year after year, turning my lifetime into a series of fulfilling days.

#33 Wake Up and Fight
Enough said.