Sunday, August 14, 2011

We Will Sell No Line Before Its Time

83º ~ the weather returns to its proper order and we are happy, thunderstorms have ceased for the time being, the leaves are plumping up, the air is easier to breathe

Those readers of a certain age will recognize the parody in the title of this post.  For those who don't, check out this video.

GRRRRR.  Blogger won't let me embed the video from YouTube.  Click here for the classic wine commercial to which I refer.

This morning, I've spent my writing time in two ways.  1. Preparing the manuscript for the first round of fall submissions.  2.  Revising the drafts from the past few weeks.  In both cases, I struggle to remember that, for me, the writing and revision process requires lots of time.  I do not get it right on the first try. 

This is frustrating and means I usually start sending things out too early.  In the case of the manuscript, that is especially true.  Would I be so worn down by rejection if I'd only waited another year before beginning?  Still, when I first sent the book out, I felt confident in the work.  I'm more confident now.  It seems I am always stuck in the Roethke line "I learn by going where I have to go."  The manuscript is in its seventh version and weighs in at 63 pages, exclusive of front matter.  Wahoo.

As for the poem drafts, I am totally psyched to say that I have nine drafts produced between July 29th and today.  As most of you know, my summer plan to draft and draft and draft was derailed.  Had all gone according to plan, those poem I'd drafted in June would have been simmering away on the back burners of revision and might have been ready for submission.  This morning, I had to keep reminding myself to not leap to the submission process.  Several of the drafts from the past two weeks feel really strong to me.  However, I must remember the cycle:  Day 1, draft a poem and usually feel a high that makes me love the draft; days 2 - 7 approx., re-read the draft and question my right to call myself a poet, revise, revise, revise; days 8 - 14 approx, re-read the draft and fall in love again while continuing to revise in tiny ways.  This cycle is contingent on being able to have lots of quiet desk time.  During the school year, it will lengthen to weeks and months.  The danger is falling in love with a draft without letting it sit and age.  I cannot count the number of times I've submitted a poem before its time and been embarrassed when I received the quick rejection and re-read the poem, only to see the flabby bits sticking out that needed to be trimmed or the glaring cliche I missed in my moon-faced lovey-dovey time (my two most usual problems).

So, while I might not have a slew of poems ready to go for those magazines that open their reading periods on September 1, I am happy to do be doing the work and I will let the voice of Orson Welles remind me that sometimes its okay to be slow.


matfst said...

I love this post. Especially the breakdown into days and the process you go through falling in and out and back into love with your work. That makes a lot of sense to me. I usually don't make it to the third, and most important step: falling back in love with it.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, Matt, that third step took a long time to find! Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I too have been guilty of sending out work to the cold harsh world before it had truly earned its wings. Some times the discipline comes in not giving in to that infatuation, having the will to put the poems away for a bit when you've reached the end of what you can do with it at the moment, recognizing you'll discover more warts after you've had some time apart.

So many drafts, industrious you!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Marie, it helps to know I'm not the only one wanting to rush the little darlings onto the stage!


Kathleen said...

I do get the reference!

And I do send things out too early sometimes. Aauugghh! But it's comforting to know I'm not alone, and that editors forgive us and teach us by not taking those poems!

But, yeesh, why do I have to keep learning the same lesson over and over? It's the nature of it, I guess!

Sandy Longhorn said...


Thanks for getting the reference. I guess that proves how successful that tagline was. Deeply embedded in my brain!

As for learning it over and over, I'm right there with you, sister. And, yes, thank goodness for editors! Wahoo!

Joannie said...

I will not sell the wine before its time, nor will I drink the wine before its time.

But I'm likely to send the line before its time.

Kudos to you for building in a timeframe/process for letting poems rest before you send them out.

Always a process. Lately, I've been taking much-rejected poems from many years ago and completely recasting them into new "forms".

Did I think they were ready to send when I initially submitted them (the first 15 times)? Yes. Do I think the poems I'm writing now are ready to send? Again, yes. Might I be rewriting these poems in the 2010s? Possibly.

Mostly, I think our art follows the arc of our lives, and we do the best we can (although I still hope to write better).

Sandy Longhorn said...

"Send no line before its time." That is so much better. Thanks, Joannie. I also appreciate the reminder that we do the best we can.

Love that you are returning to older poems and recasting them. That's perseverance.

Good luck!