Creative Consensus

A number of years ago, I was involved in a poetry anthology that was edited by consensus. [This, not uncoincidentally, was also when I learned to spell consensus, which has a startling lack of c’s]. My job was mostly copyediting, which I have to say was not done by consensus. It was done by me. But the larger editorial  decisions were made by a team of people collaborating by email from various states and countries.

One of my co-collaborators happened to live at the other end of my state. So one summer I drove up to her house and introduced myself to a person I had never met before. We could not stop talking. It was painful when I had to leave. Since then there have been many visits at either end of the state and in places between and we have not stopped talking since.

We just keep finding each other at poetry events. We’re either reading together or going to readings together. We’ve been on panels so often together that we have to take next year off so the major state-wide poetry event organizers don’t get suspicious. We needed to find something else to do together.

So we’re collaborating on an article. Our processes are both similar and different. We don’t know where we are submitting this article yet, so we’re just thinking and writing. We are comfortable with uncertainty. Our interests diverge and then converge in surprising ways. Or we’re poets so we find connections everywhere. We try to out-connect each other. She is one of my smartest readers.

One of the joys of not having a major writing project active at the moment is I can tackle the things I’ve been meaning to do for years.

What are your minor writing projects?

This is what my brain looks like

In the past half-hour, I have done the following things:

taped an old train schedule onto my work notebook for pretty decoration because I am 12

printed out an email from my friend R about an article we might be writing (R, are we writing it? I think so.)

did a little freewrite about poetry and math

checked my work schedule

read a good blog post about facebook and writers

tried to remember the famous lit crit guy who said he knew all about topology but mathematicians said he was full of shit*

*(A lit crit guy full of shit? I was as shocked as anyone)

The previous action was prompted by the scientists who won the Nobel Prize in physics. They worked on topology. I tried (and failed) to read the Wikipedia article on topology.

went back to the internet and stared blankly at the tab. What the fuck was I about to look up? Oh yeah. Hurricane Matthew.

How’s your torrential stream of consciousness these days?

In Which I Do Not Stop Thinking

Well, there is some good news and some bad news. About a month ago I declared finis! and sent my MS out into the world. As I did my final skim/edit for fucked up tabs (thank you, Scrivener), I reflected that the book was not perfect, but I had done everything I could do. I had thought over every word and I hadn’t had a new idea for structure in a good six months or so.

I declared to the whole of my acquaintance that I was never writing again.

“You’re taking a break,” a friend said.

“No, I’m on strike. It sounds better.”

[Aside: Love me, love my melodrama.]

After a few weeks I take up freewriting. I have an article I’m thinking about. I do some reading and take some notes. I have a writing date with a friend at the library. I suddenly remember a book that is relevant to the article. I read a chapter and take more notes and write up some thoughts.

Then it happens. A whole new idea about structuring the damn book. And it’s so fucking obvious, I don’t know why I didn’t think about it years ago. I’m somewhere between ecstatic and heartbroken.

I babbled my new idea to my trusty reader. “Why didn’t I have this idea six months ago,” I wailed to her.

“I know,” she said. After months and years of revisions to her own novel she says, “I feel like I’m ready to start [the novel she just finished].”

When will it end?

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?


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.


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?