What It’s Like to Be Married To A Writer

Indy: I told someone the other day that I can never leave you, because you will steal all my stories. [This came up in conversation organically, somehow. I can’t remember why.]

Spouse: That’s true.

[Companionable silence.]

Spouse: I will also steal your stories if you die first.

Indy: What?? I didn’t agree to that!

Spouse: So you better not die first.

Indy: OK. Wait, but I don’t want you to die first. No fair! [Scowls at Spouse. Leaves room.]

Equinox Confessions

I missed my sister’s birthday.

I taught a class on Wednesday, and I had that old moment where all the faces in the room were turned to me. What are they looking at? Me. Holy shit, they’re looking at me. I’m in charge. For three whole hours.

I survived.

One rejection down; 149 to go. (My wise writerly friends tell me I have to submit 150 times before I give up and become a goat herder.)

I didn’t know it was fall until the google doodle told me. What is that rustling noise? Falling leaves? Nope. It’s my father (the astronomer) turning in his grave.

I’ve been shirking all editorial duties, paid and unpaid.

I want to write, but I have no idea where to start.

I went to the library and checked out two of the schlockiest books I could find, although I am still obsessed by the arctic.

Although I’m still obsessed by the arctic, I did not finish Gretel Ehrlich’s “This Cold Heaven.”

I remember my parents giving that book to my sister. However I can’t remember if it was on her birthday.

Confess. What are you obsessed by? What are you shirking? What have you survived?

Not Writing

I’ve never been so happy to not be writing. This summer did me in. Wake up, work, edit, edit, edit, edit, write, rewrite, cry, deal with nonwriting things. I did none of these things well. My physical environment and my interpersonal relationships are still feeling the effects of all that writing and neglecting things that weren’t writing.

I have a shred more patience for humanity. Spouse and I had a very short but calm conversation about the State of Our Lives—you know, the kind of conversation that can easily lead to angry tears. I anticipate a few more conversations of that nature. Side note: Living with people is really difficult.

For the first time in probably twenty years, I feel no guilt for not writing. I finished The Fucker for now. It’s in someone else’s hands. It’s time for me to pick up the pieces. I fill my time working Second Job, planning my class, walking a dog or two, and cooking. I can play Wildwood Flower (slowly) on the banjo. I’m obsessing about organization/planner for the semester.

What do you do when you don’t write?

Submitted

I had a complicated weekend. On Friday at about 1 pm, I clicked “Send” on an email to an agent. Then I went out for burritos. You better believe I had a beer as well.

I’ve been an emotional invalid ever since. I take a nap in the afternoon and cry at the smallest things. I have an intense intolerance of other people. I don’t know why it’s affecting me this way, but it is.

BFF (aka best friend in the world) came over on Thursday night. I was a bit shaky as I told her, “I have to do one more scan for typos and fix one section. Then I can submit my manuscript.” I have been inputting edits for years. I knew it wouldn’t take the whole day.

“How do you feel?”

“I have no idea. It’s been part of my life for six years. I mean, I married DP after five years. I am married to this manuscript. That sounds dumb, but you know what I mean.” She did, of course, which is why we are BFFs.

Later in the evening she said, “Are you sure it’s only the book that is bothering you?” BFF is not a writer. The week before I cried in front of her for about the third time in our twenty-mumble-year acquaintance.

So there I was in a bar, trying to explain to my friend why writing a book has made me a fragile shell of a human.

YES IT’S THE BOOK.

The weirdest thing about the book is that it is one of the biggest things I’ve ever done in my life, and I can’t explain it properly, and no one knows about it because even I don’t walk around telling people that I’m writing a book. (Actually that’s a total lie, I do. When you work in academia you can tell people that you’re writing a book without sounding like a weirdo.) I guess what I’m trying to say is that no one but other writers understand the enormity of learning how to write, edit, and finish a book.

(Aside: They do not teach you how to construct a book when you go to poet school. I asked my adviser how to order my thesis, and he was like, well, you just read it and know. Thanks. That was helpful. I most certainly did not know.)

This week it’s back to my editing, teaching, tutoring regular life. I might write a poem in a few weeks. If I feel like it. Maybe an email or two. Maybe a blog post on how to order a poetry manuscript. We shall see.

What’s next?

Pretty Good Pedagogy

Last night I dreamt I had to teach a class I had forgotten to plan. I didn’t know what the title of the class was, only that it was English 106. The class was full and I had no syllabus, and no idea what I was doing.

So I had them go around the room and introduce themselves and talk about how they felt about writing. I figured I was supposed to be teaching them some version of academic writing. Then when they started to complain that they didn’t know how they felt about writing, I made them freewrite and then go around the class and introduce themselves.

That was pretty good pedagogy for a dream.

August has always been my favorite month. This morning I was particularly sad to see it was gone already. I was supposed to finish my book this summer. School starts next week, and I am to be an adjunct clause. DP starts teaching today. I’d take a picture of him in his backpack outside the house for his first day, but no one wants to see that scowl. Today, for me, is the end of summer.

I am a quarter of the way through entering my final edits, and I’m pretty sure I’m losing my mind. I thought it was going to be done by the end of August, now I’m thinking the end of the week. I’ve cleared my editorial calendar for this week and by god it’s going to get done.

Yesterday I turned to my friend/housemate and said, “You know what? This sentence isn’t very good, but I don’t fucking care. It could be worse.” F/H giggled, which only encouraged me. “I can’t decide to not make every edit, but I’m not changing that one. So there.”

I don’t know if last night’s dream was about writing anxiety or teaching anxiety. But the message is that I can do it. What will I do without my faithful companion, the fucker that has been with me for six years? Probably I will die. But not today. Today I will fight.

What are you fighting?

Gratitude List

Late August is a good time to reflect back upon the summer and think about all the shit you didn’t do, the writing that didn’t get done, the gorgeous days you were too depressed to appreciate, and how academia is full of windbags and nutjobs. Back to school, yay!

I’m fucking grateful that facebook acquaintances are getting published: “I’m so happy to be back in [big newspaper redacted] with my article about [whatever].”

I’m fucking grateful that I live in such a place of taciturnity and emotional reserve that when I directly wave to a neighbor in apology for my dog barking at her, she looks away. Talking and emoting takes precious energy one might need to stay warm.

I’m fucking grateful that I’m almost done with my book. No, really, I am.

I’m fucking grateful that should it ever see the light of day or at least the light of an agent’s eye, I’m going to have to go back in and revise the shit out of it. Again. Revision makes for a better book. (Kill me now.)

I’m fucking grateful that my pleas to take two vital steps to be teach a fall class are being ignored. Adjuncts should never have the security of knowing what they are doing ten days from now. Makes them complacent. Next thing you know they will be clamoring for benefits and a living wage.

What are you grateful for?

 

 

Title Fail

You wouldn’t know this from my blog posts, but I’m reasonably good with titles. I can pick that one killer phrase, the thing you deleted, the great image, and slap it at the top of my work or other people’s work. I even came up with some chapter titles for Dr. Cougar.

I hate clickbait titles, or obvious titles. If it sounds like the subject line of an email it’s a shitty title. If it involves the words “amaze” or “crazy” or “blow your mind” it has no place in a creative writing setting. The poets say that your titles in the table of contents should compel a person to turn to the poem itself. That’s not true of every poem in a manuscript, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

A good title can be a striking image, a good turn of phrase, or something that has two meanings. A little action is good. I like a shorter title. “Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form” is my least favorite title in the world. Try not to be pretentious. Imagine an event director at a bookstore introducing your book. Imagine your engineer relative asking for the book in a bookstore.

My book has six or seven chapters and a bunch of chapterlets, which are titled. For the most part, the titles are pretty strong. There was a correlation between the right title and the focus of the chapterlet that can’t be ignored. But I have two chapterlets with the same name and for the life of me, I cannot come up with a good title for them.

How do you determine titles?