Friday, October 12, 2007

This is a test

I'm struggling with the disappointment of not getting outside recognition and not selling more books and… and…

In some ways I feel like this year is a test. I'm being asked to, or forced to, examine and own my motivations for writing. In some cases, I need to nudge myself toward some adjustments. (I find it's always easier to adjust when I can own and understand where I'm coming from in the first place.)

I'm not getting acceptances, so that's a low. But if I look at the high points during the year, they were the writing—the two manuscript projects that just swept me along. My task now, my challenge, is to focus on the writing and the craft and—most important to me—the deepening and the release, and to let go, let go, let go of all the longings for acceptance, recognition, validation.

It makes so much sense when I say it or write it down, but I find that doing it on a day-to-day, ongoing basis is much harder. I slip in and out. As I said, it's a test—like a fitness test, more muscles (metaphorical) that I need to exercise.

I'm pretty sure I've asked this before, but because I am slipping in and out, I'll ask again: How do you find encouragement or validation? How do you measure "success" (on your own, in your writing community)? How do you keep in the top of your mind the real why you write poetry? How do you keep on keepin' on?


ka said...

hi Joannie,

I'm right with you and actually, I think this feeling is going around!

How do you find encouragement or validation?
***I return to the friends who are writers and know my previous successes and get a pep talk. When they aren't around, I remind myself that I'd be doing this despite publication/awards. I honestly believe there is nothing more important than participating in the creative arts, no matter what they are (did you read Li-Young Lee's interview I posted, he said something similar, though a little more poetic).

If I'm going through a rejection phase or a lot of nothingness (which I am), I just tell myself that it's not my time right now and to keep trying. I just found out I didn't get an Artist Trust Fellowship. I was bummed. But talking with one of the winners I realized that it was her time for this success and not mine. I felt better after seeing how she will benefit more from the $ than I would.

How do you measure "success" (on your own, in your writing community)?
***I try not too. If I even find myself comparing myself to anyone, I pull back immediately. I think comparisons is the one of the best inspiration killers. I have always measured success in my feeling of happiness, contentment, and fulfillment. Poetry helps fill those categories.

How do you keep in the top of your mind the real why you write poetry?
***the real *reason?* I write poetry.
For me it returns to that Berryman poem by WS Merwin. I don't know what any of this means, why I do it, or how it will turn out. But I feel I need to do it. I just try to stay focused on the poem and let the other thoughts slip past me.

How do you keep on keepin' on?
***Good question! I think a little faith help and a little desperation. Also, not having many other skills keeps me writing too. ;-)

I just remind myself-- if you had all the money in the world, how would you spend your time?

My answer is always writing (and traveling!) so I know I'm doing what I love to do, so I keep doing it.

hope this helps some!

Joannie said...

Thanks for that pep talk. I just need to continually remind myself--and hearing the reminders from other writers help, too--a lot. Maybe things will pick up for us soon, and if not, at least nothing is stopping us from writing.

Sped said...

Joannie - I think you should celebrate the fact that you have published two books of poetry and that this poetry, although it has only reached a small audience, has had some impact on these readers. I think Steady Longing For Flight is one of the most beautiful books of poetry I have read. I wish there were more copies to be found! You have at least one admirer who likes to read your words and I'm sure there are many more.

Joannie said...

Sped, thanks for the reality check. I should keep in mind that I've had two books published (and I do!) and that it isn't really a numbers thing.

And thank you for your kind words about the poems. I'm glad that you've enjoyed them.