I've noticed a pattern of forgetfulness around writing--I forget how many poems I've written, so when I set out to write 100, I write 104 instead. The bio in my second book of poems said it was my first book of poems. When people ask me what I've been writing, I just flat can't remember. And so the void becomes the story.
I don't like that story, so I'm rewriting it.
At the beginning of 2018, I had a successful Kickstarter that still needed to be fulfilled. I didn't know what I wanted to work on, and I was seized with anxiety when I tried to figure out what to share on social media as far as writing was concerned. No good.
By focusing on a) setting aside time to write and sticking to it, and b) finding community and working in public, I am ending the year with an exciting prospect for a writing group, a lot of projects-in-progress, and a sense of calm that fucking rules.
Two poems were published on the Poetry SuperHighway.
I also released a free ebook of poetry on the Poetry SuperHighway's 14th Annual Poetry E-Book Free-for-All, All My Friends and I want to Talk About is Autumn Leaves. If you backed my kickstarter, you received this. If you didn't, maybe I'll release a print version next fall.
I submitted a tender little story about a dragon who learns to ride a bike to Bikes in Space. Nothing came of it, but still! I'm proud for having gotten the story together.
I did three writing retreats: one each in March, July, and December.
March was revelatory--but it was a hard-won revelation. I took a day off work, feeling unsure of the big picture, no projects in the works, feeling scared of a day off. But I cleared the space and planned to go to the Getty. When I woke up to a rare day of pouring LA rain, after some huffing and puffing, I reined in a black mood and walked to the public library down the street.
Over the course of the day I worked my way back home, eating at every coffee/tea shop along the way. I had bubble tea. Lattes. Chicken fried steak with champagne on the side. I got so much done! I showed up armed with negative expectations, no plan and a head full of worries. I walked away knowing what I was going to work on next, and, best of all, believing I could do it.
July was a (literal) gift--Paul put me up in an AirBnB for three days as a birthday gift. I read through the draft of my novel. I worked on a zine. I solved (at least for now) the question of what to do with all my free-writes.
In December, I wandered the city, looking for coffee shops and book stores. I discovered my new favorite writing haunt is a local pizza joint that has power outlets, big windows, no wifi, infinite Diet Dr. Pepper refills, and employees who do not care how long you stay. Looking back at March feels like peering back at a stranger--I feel so organized and motivated and disciplined now, and just a few short months ago I was lost and unsure of where to go next. I'm sure the wind in my sails will die down, but I am enjoying the feeling while it lasts.
This year I decided to focus on things that involve other people--not just me by my lonesome, but me with others, all of us working towards a shared aim.
I took online writing classes at Writers.com (The Poet's Path with Marc Olmsted and Poetry Workshop with Bob Haynes). Both helped generate new work and gave me time to think more about craft. I also participated in Holly Wren Spaulding's seasonal, email-based 21-Day Poetry Challenge. After a frantic 100 days last year, where the poems took a similar scope given the limitations of the project, it was refreshing to have space to work for as long as I liked, to write long poems that rambled, to change tones and modes from poem to poem.
I attended a one-day workshop with C. Bain at Beyond Baroque, where we wrote about mythology and queerness and bodies and tragedy and mundane life shit all mixed together. The spirit of Mad King Thomas was definitely in the room. I also went to Beyond Baroque's Beyond Beat festival to hear a talk about Buddhism and art practice.
Bubonicon! I've wanted to go to a writer's conference, and while it was no AWP, it was local, cheap, and full of people in rat costumes. I went to panels about writing process! I watched George R.R. Martin cackle about killing his characters, just as you imagine he does! I did free writes and read them in front of the room!
I also wanted to find a local writing community, and well, I may have done that in the 11th hour. A few weeks ago, I attended a plain old writer's group here in Albuquerque. It was *wonderful* to talk craft in somebody's living room and eat truffles.
The biggest surprise of them all! When I started following Joe Carlough (who made my book!) on Instagram, his posts about zine fests started some wheels turning in my mind about what it would look like to, I dunno, start a Patreon and send out zines. What if I could just avoid the gatekeeping publishing world altogether? So I dragged Paul all the way across LA to go to the LA Zine Fest.
IT WAS AMAZING.
A huge room full of artists, and lots of them queer and young and non-white, selling products they made their own way, to their own standards. I spent like $200 there and felt good about every single penny.
In October I went to the Albuquerque Zine Fest, which was an awesome window into a local community I definitely want to be part of.
I'm still spinning my wheels on zines to create (I have one draft in progress) and also *how* to create a zine, because apparently when the means of production are in the hands of the worker, the worker has to figure out how to use a photocopier, or whatever.
I kicked ass at my own original goal of reading 22 books this year, with a total of 45 (goodreads link). The two best writing-related books, though?
A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver (A poetry wonk's dream)
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, Steven Pressfield (This book is changing the way I approach projects and making fiction seem feasible.)
Three tweaks to my writing process have immensely improved productivity:
- I write every Tuesday and Thursday before work.
- I review my free writing at the end of the month (usually during one of those pre-work sessions).
- I name revisions on Google Drive to track drafts and keep chaos to a minimum.
Tiny changes, huge results.
In 2019, I want to focus on finding the best ways to share my work. More sharing with y'all here and on my newsletter, likely a website revamp, maybe submitting work to journals, too.
There's a zine draft waiting to be made real, about DIY Writing Retreats. I am hoping to apply to a zine fest or two in 2019, though I'm still figuring out what I'd be able to offer since I'm new to this whole zine thing.
AND I'm about 35 hours in to editing my novel. Last November I wrote almost 40,000 words in a novel that I ignored until July. I've spent the last two months immersed in that world, solving problems and generally unsure of what comes next.
I'm looking seriously at Patreon--what could I offer to make it worthwhile for folks but not too onerous to myself?
Beyond that, I've got a fat stack of poetry-in-progress sitting in my Google Drive. Will I create a chapbook? Will I submit it to contests or self-publish? What about sending individual poems to journals? I want to settle into a groove with a local writing group (or two?)
- Regularity matters. I write, without fail, at least twice a week now. Frequently more. Working on my novel has taught me a ton about how to stay engaged in short bursts every day. There really is something unhealthy for me when I'm not creating, and I just gotta make sure I stay on the right side of that line.
- Find people to work with. Every time I worked with someone this year (whether to create my book, to organize mailing labels for Kickstarter, in a class or group), things caught fire. In a good way.
- Take time to reflect. Yeah, putting up huge word counts is swell, but you know what's better than that? Putting up decent word counts *and* taking time to reflect on what's working. Monthly review, regular writing retreats, and year-in-review posts all help.
I feel a bit weird about this post, like it's just here to prove I'm a Real Writer. And it is, sorta, here to prove that. To you but also to me.