Here’s the Deal….

The life of a freelance writer is not a 9-to-5 gig. It’s not a day filled with checking off to-do’s either. It’s not a life of coming and going and Michelangelo-ing.” No one, other than other poets and fiction writers devoted to their craft, will understand your life at all.

Here’s a paragraph highlighting a formula for living if you don’t want to really succeed as a writer. For the past 30 years I have structured my life so that by all outward appearances I am a “normal” person (I don’t mean I am abnormal, set-apart, or special as compared to anyone else).  I have tried to be “Kerri”…..Supermom, Superwife, Super-fit, Super Volunteer, Super Church Lady….by day, then slip into  my secret phone booth by night with my laptop and create myself as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved every second of my life and I have accomplished some very rewarding things, not the least of which are the kids I have raised who are my favorite people on this planet. I have invested myself in a marriage that I wouldn’t trade for any best-selling novel (unless I could be Tolstoy…have to think about that one). I have thrown some terrific parties. I have championed the cause of dyslexia and read thousands of pages to children. What I haven’t accomplished, though, are most of my writing goals.

2013 is the year of change. No more rushing around my home appearing to be busy because a friend is at the door,peering into my curtain-less windows and judging me for what looks by all outward appearances as a life of sloth and lethargy. For the writer Rest is Work. Writers must have downtime, and hours of unstructured, uninterrupted time. That’s why I never answer my phone. I can text. I can email, and then put myself smack-dab into the poem I am writing, but if I have to talk, I will never get the door to the poem to reopen for me so I can finish it. Not only do I prefer text and email, I am prolific at it. Prepare to read if you get a text or an email from me!

No more baking. I don’t bake. I also don’t scrapbook. I don’t watch much television. As for church, writing is my one and only true spiritual gift. I do clean, but only because I can’t work creatively in a cluttered, messy house. I am simplifying my meal preparation processes and calling that cooking. Besides, eating fruits and veggies in their raw state is healthier anyway. Have an apple is my go-to phrase these days.

I am also cleaning up my relationships. I no longer have time to share and share alike. I still value the importance of being a good listener, but if I refrain from the need to be southern and wax on and on about myself, it cuts all conversations (including the ones with the check-out lady at Wal-mart) in half. This change is a hard one for me. Someone give me an apple.

I am also streamlining my exercise routines. I no longer have three hours every morning to workout. I  miss the social aspect of my fitness regimen, but I can see most of my fitness girlfriends just by hitting a couple of classes a week. On other days,  I can meet Mr. Elliptical Machine for 30 minutes at lunch and the rest of my day I can devote to writing.

I am forcing myself to say I am a writer. Until I have the break-through publishing moment, my friends will probably still think all I do is sit around in my pajamas playing on Facebook. But I know better, and if I know better, what everyone else thinks really doesn’t matter. Each day I wake up and I go straight to the coffee pot. Then I perform my motherly tasks like making sack lunches and finding homework in a comatose state. Once the son and husband are on their ways in the morning, I set my mind on things above…as in reading my Bible followed by pursuit of my lofty writing goals. If any activity in my day doesn’t feed either my family or the afore-mentioned monster, I simply no longer do it. An apple a day…..

On a Rejection Role!

I am proud of my writing work ethic lately, and a bit bemused to discover that even though I have been devoting four to six hours each day to writing, editing and reading, my house is still clean and my family has not starved. I have just been “Keeping it simple, stupid.” Instead of homemade tomato basil soup, last night we had grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can with a red label. Secretly I believe my son actually likes soup from a can better!

This morning I organized several poems into a manuscript sample and constructed a book proposal which I just zapped to a publisher via the world wide web. These poems are litanies intended for use in corporate worship. I am encouraged to find several major publishers who are currently accepting book proposals in the category of ministry resources.

Keeping my fingers crossed and my heart open. Perhaps poetry, like everything else, is a game of percentages. You miss one hundred percent of the shots you never take.

Clarity

I have experienced a great deal of clarity in my life since the New Year as far as my writing life is concerned. I have begun to simplify my life, my to-do lists, my clothing choices, every aspect of my life that drains energy and focus from my writing. Clean. Simple. Single-mindedness. These are descriptors I am meditating on as I go through my day. It sounds so simple but it has taken me a lifetime to realize that if I continue to attempt to define myself as good at so many other things (cooking, friendship, fitness, board games, church, hand-made cards, scrapbooking, decorating…you get the drift), I am NEVER going to publish that book of poems! Notice I didn’t mention marriage in that list, and that is because I am blessed with a very low-maintenance guy, and because when I am happy…he’s happy. Writing is what makes me happy.

I entered ten poems in the Iowa Review contest today, and finished up applications to low residency MFA programs.

White Space

I am struck this morning that white space defines the poem. The two writers whose caverns of blankness assert themselves most to me as a reader are Emily Dickinson and Willa Cather. I am also convinced that what I do with lack in my life ultimately defines me, and by lack I don’t mean the deliberate doing without self-imposed by so many evangelicals in my midst. After all, we never starve ourselves to the point of true hunger. This is not Christ’s intention for those He died for–the puffed-up, empty belly. This is not the denying of self that Scriptures portray, this is putting ourselves front and center in the white space. Salvation is truly an end to all doing for It is finished. It’s been done.

Dickinson’s poetry assumes nothing yet feels so complete, but upon closer reading her words, while they rigidly adhere to her “rules,” bleed and run off the page, and yet one feels as though they have consumed her text in a satisfying way, only to find that the stomach still growls for more. What’s in the space this giant doesn’t inhabit? This is what keeps me coming back daily to her poetry.

In life, the emptiness that comes to us when we stop pursuing it is the true lack in the Emily-sense.

The Six People

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jessicahagy/2012/07/17/the-6-people-you-need-in-your-corner/

 

For the most part, the writer’s life is not a lonely one, but an “alone” one. We must have solitude–and lots of it–in order to do our jobs. I find that in my closest relationships, I fulfill one of the six people and sometimes multiples of the six people described in this article for my spouse, my sister, my children, my friends. In turn, when it comes to my personal life, my family and friends provide these for me, but I don’t have these six people coming alongside me in My Writing Life. This year I must do something about that. Whether it is getting back into an MFA program or finding writers’ groups to get feedback from or online relationships with more editors and writers or possibly all of the above, carving out my Writing Community and my place in it is essential to my survival as a freelancer. I might need a housekeeper too! First and foremost, I must find a way to feed my soul. I believe that God doesn’t give me a hunger that He doesn’t provide a means to fill, so where there is a will there is a way, especially when it is God’s will. Even in small town America there is art and inspiration to be found, and there are always plane tickets and day trips to larger cities. I have already inquired about getting involved in my local writers group. I plan to attend next month. What about you? What do you do as a writer to feed your soul?

Routines

I was notified yesterday that five of my poems will be published at www.burnsidewriters.com over the next six months. This gives me incentive to continue sending out my poems. I have a strong preference for online submission, but I live in a small town, so the post office isn’t that far away if I have to break down and mail something. How do you make those stamps stick again?

I am focused on process this morning. Really, I am preoccupied with process while I mumble a good morning to my son and hand him his bowl of mini wheats. Thankfully, his morning routine is watching ESPN. Yes, We are morning people!

Submission

Submission. I am not fond of this word as it applies to marriage, church, authority or My Writing Life. This is the year, 2013, that I work diligently on submission.

I just spent the better part of my morning learning an electronic submission process known as “Hey Publisher,” and three hours into the process of putting my poems on deck for their “beaming up”, I realized that it takes me as long to submit my work as it does to write it in the first place! Not really…but the time drags in comparison to the time spent creating works of poetry or nonfiction.

This blog will serve as my documentation and therapy-of-sorts for all the rejection I am setting myself up for and calling it a job.

I am, for better or for worse, putting myself out there. If you would like to follow along with me…follow this blog. Here I  will briefly mourn the misunderstood (not poorly written…that can’t be it!) works which no one but me gets, and hopefully here I will celebrate when one of my creations makes it to a printed page somewhere in the obscure journals of lyric.

I will try to be brief, inspirational, and writer-esque. Most of all, I will try to be me.