And the evening and the morning were the first day…

I am sitting in my “owl” pajamas (apology to my sister who is terrified of owls), sufficiently tucked in for the night in my little dorm room cubicle on the second floor of Andrews Hall at Ashland University. Coming from my over 4,000 square foot, newly-purchased Tudor home to the institutional yellow walls of the tiny dorm room that will be my “home” for the next two weeks makes me feel like after-the-felony-Martha-Stewart. I hope to post pictures of the bunk bed with the thin, not-ready-for-summer-camp blanket in tomorrow’s post. I have already Googled hotels at Ashland for next summer’s residency.

In reality, though, I am thankful to be in this quiet room with no clutter and no distractions other than the television blaring in the lounge that adjoins my room. Did I mention I am a light sleeper? Living on campus has already necessitated the making of new writer friends. Tomorrow three new friends and I will meet for a journey to find java on a Sunday morning in a small Ohio town.

I struggle with “talking the talk.” I just have to keep reminding myself that what I am here in the program for is to improve my ability not only to write poetry but to talk about it.

It helps that tonight I received an email from Relief Journal who is sending the final galley of my poems for proofreading before publication. I may come from a small town in Kansas. I may be a SAHM. I may have arrived here with the writing processes of that ugly stepsister–Journalism. But I am here, and I am already a published poet.  I love the work.

I am thrilled for the residency to officially move from introductions and awkward socializing (poets in general need more than apple juice to make us socially interesting people…) to teachable moments. Tomorrow’s craft seminar is  ” A Closer Look at James Agee” followed by a reading by poet Brian Doyle.

Messy Means Creative?

I came across a slide show of famous writers and artists and their work spaces. Apart from Picasso whose art studio looked like an episode of “Hoarders,” and a few other famous Messy-Maniacs , I felt validated that most of the creative spaces looked like the hospital wing for the chronically OCD. Many of the writers obviously require cleanliness and absolute order with a minimalist approach to things in order for creativity to flow. I have always been this way. My creative process is random and willy-nilly and all over the place. I start typing a poem usually with no idea what the first line of the poem will even sound like. I have no agenda. I can’t require much of my Muse except the promise to dust, vacuum, put away all items out of place and then serve her.

Because I am so rigid about my need for order, I have often been labeled by friends and family as Khaki Kerri–the boring person with nothing better to do than dishes. I beg to differ that “Good Moms” have messy stoves. My kitchen has to be spotless with all the dishes and surfaces clean or I will not cook. I respect that Picasso and I could not have worked in the same studio,  and I also respect that his artistic abilities far exceed mine so the man can choose not to make his children wear clothes if he wants to….As for my friends and family who can’t find a path from front door to  living room, whose dining tables look like Craft-o-Rama-Bama, you might just be messier, not more creative than some of us who keep our spaces free of clutter.

The bottom line to living an artistic life or just living a life in general is to be who you are created to be and to celebrate that and to spend most of your time with others who will also celebrate that. Part (perhaps all) of never having time for maintenance and margin in one’s life is…let’s call it what it is…. feeding the Glorification of Busy Monster, and that Monster will take over your brain until you are living from caffeine drip to caffeine drip, gaining pounds around your midsection, and hurrying so fast you can hardly take a breath to actually listen to someone who isn’t on the same treadmill. I have spent my years working for that warden, and I have reaped the futility of it. Not only that, I have trained my up my own children to battle this cultural demon. My daughters especially struggle with allowing themselves to rest.

I say this to my kids from time to time (okay…too often) Do what I say, not what I do. Every day should bring you some measure of joy at the end of it. We spend way too much time debating the definition of joy and way too little time asking ourselves if we have it, because if you have it, every day in your life, you don’t have to ask what it is anymore. You just know. Sadly, in today’s culture, it is impossible to find joy and fulfill all your childhood sports’ practice requirements. How many of us are raising our kids on God’s value that abundance is not quantitative or externally measured?

Creativity is a suspended moment. For some, a suspended moment means you don’t see the cobwebs in your corners or the sink piled high with food-scarred dishes. Some of us can’t navigate the suspension with total disregard. Messiness is not a measure of creativity any more than neatness is.