Two New Drafts and I'm Breathing Easy

This fall, after the beginning-of-the-school-year tumult settled down into the usual day to day chaos, I settled into a very comfortable writing schedule:  Tuesday and Thursday mornings I'd get up early (4:30/5:00) and write until 6:30; Saturdays I'd have at least three or four hours in the morning to write.  Sometimes I'd do a little more here and there throughout the week as I could.  This schedule allowed me to get about one solid draft a week, sometimes two, and have some time for revision.  Not enough time for submissions, though, so some Saturdays I would sacrifice drafting (ach! a dagger to the heart!) for submissions, or if Husband was willing, I'd work longer to make time for prepping submissions.

I find I often need a good couple of hours to get into a space where I can draft my way into a poem.  I usually start with some learning.  Right now I'm still working my way through Wendy Bishop's Thirteen Ways of Looking for a Poem (pricey!--I recommend buying it used).  So, I might read a section, take some notes, try a few of her exercises to warm up.  Then I turn to whatever it is I'm reading.  Lately, it has been Lucia Perillo's The Body Mutinies and Fleda Brown's Loon Cry and Reunion.  Often something in a poem will spark something for me, and I'll draft from that; other times, I have in mind what I want to work on and I use the poem(s) I'm reading as a formal map, or as a word bank (an idea I got from Sandy on her blog, described here).

Alas, the last two weeks I've been out of my routine, some for good (company, a visit with a college friend) and some for ill (Husband's travel schedule).  My last two drafts have some with a cost: babysitters.  More on that later.

The first draft was in retaliation to a Fleda Brown poem which has this epigraph from Carl Sandburg:  "Unless there is a loon cry in a book, the poetry has gone out of it." (I have not been able to source this quote).  Brown then goes on to write a poem in which "three loon cries/arise...".  I have no real quarrel with putting a loon cry in a poem and Brown's poem is beautiful.  But there's nothing like an absolute to inspire, so I took as my working title "You Can't Put a Loon Cry in a Poem."  I ended up with something of an ars poetica that I'm interested in enough to keep working on.

The second draft came out of my study of a Jean Valentine poem called "Everyone Was Drunk."  My writing group looked at this poem on Monday, and discussed Valentine's use of a very specific time, place, and setting, followed up immediately with images important to the poem.  I thought I'd give a poem like that a whirl, and ended up with a draft, a bit more narrative than Valentine's, about a fever I had during a family vacation to Yellowstone.  Going immediately from setting to image helped me get into a more lyric (vs. narrative) space that I normally would if I'm just drafting by my own devices.  Again, this draft is one I want to keep working on.

So, ok.  A good routine.  A routine temporarily dissolved.  Babysitters hired.  Two drafts.  

Here's where the Mom Trying to Write's mind goes next:  cost per draft, $40.

I know this is not a helpful way to think about things.  I tell myself I am really paying for something else:  time to practice my art, time to have a life of my own.  I know I'll get miserable and crabby and tight-chested if I don't get time to write.  I look at each draft and say out loud, You, poem, are worth forty dollars.

But let me be honest when I say I'm looking forward to getting back to my usual writing routine, which is entirely dependent upon Husband's care of the children during specific hours of the week, which therefore makes the time to write FREE.  Words are also free.  That's part of what's so cool about being a writer:  you can make art without spending anything on materials.  But depending on your life, you might have to throw in a little cash for babysitting from time to time.


Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for sharing the process, costs and all. Inspiring!

Molly said...

Thanks for reading, Sandy. I enjoy reading your process notes so thought I'd try some of my own.