Saturday, February 14, 2015

I Have Made Excuses

59º ~ sweet sun, tiny breezes, a lull before an oncoming winter blast, everyone giddy with the chance of an ice day on Monday

Reader, I continue to try and practice my new mantra: "We schedule what we value." In that vein, I've tried to make better use of my time, especially when I get home "after school" as we say around here, both of us being teachers. In the past, I've generally spent my later afternoons and early evenings grading, working on piddly emails, and sitting in my recliner with re-runs of Law & Order as background noise. For the most part, I'd get a few small things accomplished and convince myself my day was over. I'd make excuses for not heading back to the desk of the Kangaroo.

This week, in an attempt to break this pattern, and because my writing time on Tuesday and Thursday morning didn't seem all that productive, I've refused the lure of my recliner and headed instead to my writing space. While I didn't write, I am proud of what I did accomplish.

This week, I applied to two writing residencies for this summer. I think I've only ever applied to a residency one other time. Mostly, I've made excuses. They sound like this.

1. I don't have time to do the applications since they are mostly due during hectic times of the academic year, and I have a 5/5 load with half of that as composition.  [Can't you just hear the pity-party violins?!]

2. I don't have kids so I can't justify the expense of doing a residency when I have oodles and oodles of quiet time at home in the summer.

3. You have to "know someone" to get into a residency, and I don't, so why bother.

4. My job doesn't require this kind of "career building," so why bother.

It may seem silly, but I had to convince myself that I still deserved the chance to steep myself in writing for a few weeks and shut out all my home responsibilities.

So, I took a deep breath and applied to two residencies, using my time in the late afternoons. I have to say that being able to apply electronically might be what finally tipped the scale. I was able to "finish" each application in an afternoon, although I didn't submit in the first sitting. I went back to proof and polish before hitting "submit."

And hitting "submit" was nerve-wracking. Teaching outside the "ivory tower" of MFA/PhD programs, or even at a 4-year with a strong BA/BFA in creative writing, I'm not "in the know" of what I'm supposed to say on these applications. I also don't have connections with those "top-tier" poets whose name as a recommender might ensure my entrance (and here are my excuses, raising their ugly heads again). Without knowing the "hip" thing to say, I went with the truth, in plain Midwestern language, and that feels a bit unsettling.

Yes, I've fallen prey to the "it's not what you do, it's who you know" gremlin, along with its sibling, "there's a secret handshake / code / clique and you don't know it or belong to it." I'm trying to shake those suckers loose and remind myself that each of my books was published without any "connection" setting it up for me (as is true for most poets), that my poems have mostly appeared in journals where I have no "connection" to the editors until after they've met my poems (as is true for most poets as well), and that I've accomplished quite a lot in my slow, plodding, perseverance.

Still, the uneasiness lingered through this morning's drafting session, so I've got about 5 pages of lines/words that never congealed in my journal. Oh well, that will be fodder for the next session.


John Vanderslice said...

I admire you doing this, Sandy. I've really been slow at trying to make these opportunities too, for some of the same reasons you mention. And others. The question of Who Do You Need to Know has often worried me, but, hey, you know a lot of people! You are a social continent of your own!

Good luck. Looking forward to tomorrow night. Hope there's some melting. Your first few sentences (weather report) made me nostalgic for Saturday.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Wow, "a social continent"! I love it. Thanks, John.

Fingers crossed about tomorrow!