Time to get sloppy and down to the nitty-gritty.
This year I started a “two weeks on, two weeks off” kind of thing. “Two weeks on” submitting poetry and fiction manuscripts for writers residencies (which is priority), as well as book publishers, a couple of contests, greeting card outfits, plus the ongoing handful of smaller, independent presses (bless their hearts). I’m not doing anything ambitious in volume, but certainly ambitious in where I’m sending my stuff, the time spent on the selection of material and quality of the presentation. I’m trying to put forward what’s my “best work” as they say, but also trying to one-up my own game and submit what’s most representative of my writing today.
How that’s defined is lateral at best.
I just don’t know. Then it’s “two weeks off”. A vacation of sorts. That’s when I’ll get out of the house and hustle up some part-time work in order to pay my bills and subsist. I like that word a lot, “subsist”: maintain and support oneself, especially at a minimum level. Yeh that. The word has a modest and dignified and “just enough” sound to it, don’t you think? These couple of weeks are a vacation to me as I’m less mindful about preparing and submitting manuscripts and much gentler about what I call my writing career. I also do my best interpretation of “normal”, in the most conventional sense of the word. It’s all a very intentional unwinding from the mad, anachronistic writing life I’ve invented for myself (pipe tobacco included), and not at all what I consider my “real life”. The working out of the house and volunteering and associated hobnobbing I create is part of my grand scheme to number one enjoy myself (which I relish), and number two deliberately walk the walk and truly live according to my earnestly held set of convictions- striking that right balance and chord. It’s an engaging and fun time and restorative too as I’m out there with PEOPLE, gosh. Forever fine tuning, aren’t we? I mean to get closer to our own ideal vision of who we are?
You missed my birthday.
Well maybe you didn’t miss it. I’m not really sure who you are, see? But if you don’t already know it, my birthday is my own national holiday. It was a couple of weeks ago and I perennially trumpet that fact, always have. My Mom’s birthday is the day before, so we celebrate together, always do- it’s nice. It’s one of those “how it’s always been” situations- I was just born into it. There’s nothing more to my trumpeting the fact except for me it’s a rite of passage on the calendar. It puts us headlong into February, which although a short month on paper is a long month in the doing, and then March. March is a mind-blower: exciting but conflicted, full of hope and promise, and always a big, windy tease. Something about the Ides maybe. And cabin fever. Or spring fever?
Does the calendar have an effect on you?
For me no kidding and for a myriad of reasons. So the birthday came and went and because you apparently have nothing better to do, back to my schedule. You haven’t heard much from me as I’ve been here in Manuscriptland, doing my “two weeks on”. And HERE my dear is the most harrowing of places. Here’s where I ruthlessly call myself on the carpet and stare myself in the face way too much. Here’s where I exert an insane but the NECESSARY amount of pressure, as much as I can bear, as I’ve no choice. I’ve learned why so many writers throughout history have suffered from various ills and neuroses and even taken their own lives. I’m taking melodramatic license here to a degree, not only because I’m never shy at attempting a good flourish, but my view is art kills- and in the most beautiful and important of ways. It’s personal. I’m not being pretentious or puffed up about what I myself do, thems just the facts. My head is so far up my own ass right now it feels like it’s gonna come outta my mouth! It’s not a matter of my ego as a “writer” per se, but a matter of having to be as serious and savvy and calculating and thorough and precise as I can be at this juncture with the work. And all those damn words! See, at this point I can no longer be called a hobbyist.
It’s a place. It’s where my mind spins and head hurts from way too much reading and editing and typing and dreaming about the what ifs. Where my life passes before my eyes and my physical health suffers as I don’t pay much attention to anything except what I’m doing and need to be doing and should be doing or should’ve done. And why I insist on writing new material every day is beyond me. But a problem we like to have as they say, right? It does keep the energy up. I “subsist” on it (said the crack addict to the nymphomaniac). On the one hand the overall Manuscriptland mood is urgent, dark and all-consuming and on the other optimistic, light and confident. I’ve a lot riding on it- like my whole life? That’s what I keep telling myself or lead myself to believe anyway. Do you ever tell yourself or lead yourself to believe such things? That they’re supremely important? Well the aspirations are big enough, the emotions run high enough, and blah blah don’t kick the cat! Right here is where I disprove the adage about “writing what you know” (how people ridiculously say that), because I’m writing about something I don’t know at all or at least find a challenge to articulate in any way that does it justice. What is it about Manuscriptland? I’m learning as I go. And won’t crack the code.
There’s no need to.
I’m having a brain-buster trying! But if my dreams include living as a writer-in residence with a fully stocked kitchen preparing and serving me five-star meals, while I sit and write in my studio in the woods, and I’d crawl over broken glass to make it all happen, that’s my prerogative, right? And where nice, quiet people treat me like some esteemed being and deferentially ask how my day’s going? That’s my impetus here for focusing on the most important manuscripts as I figuratively punch the walls and give myself daily whippings. How would you like to spend time with the same characters reading the same lines and poems hundreds and thousands of times until your eyes bleed? I’m so sick of me right now I’ve taken to shouting newly invented and what I think are very clever-sounding cuss words at the computer screen. And the mirror! Friends and family have asked how everything’s going and I’ve answered the best I can to their blank stares. That’s what’s been going on. It can hardly be explained. I’ve tried to stay home mostly during this time and do the work as hard as I can and I feel pretty good about how it’s gone really. And that sucks. Well what sucks is it’s my nature that I know the right and appropriate effort when I see it and am glad and gratified simply by my rolling up of the sleeves.
It’s not easy being green.
So rah, rah, rah and sis bah bi boom de ay! Hey, I work hard to be my own head cheerleader which is tactical- all business. But I need to in such a self-directed endeavor. I don’t know though, I can’t help but think maybe I’d be better off if I wasn’t so satisfied?
So after a couple of weeks here in Manuscriptland, I’m ready to get back outside. I’m ready to get physical, make some cash, reconnect and chat people up. I’m good at it! Manusciptland will be in the rear view for a time, and the bulk of my stuff is in the can here. I won’t know any results on the favored opportunities until end-April or beyond, one not till August for chrissake. That crowd moves slow. But who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be staying in an all-expenses paid bungalow in Key West, doing pretty much what I’m doing right now. Uh oh. In Manuscriptland? Wait, I really need to think about this! All kidding aside, if I stay as driven and creatively daring and adventurous as I’ve been, something’ll hit. If not this year then next (bleh), who’s to say?
Certainly not me.
Anyway it’s mid-February, winter’s over. Well, for me. At least in my mind. Time to do “two weeks off” and get my ass out and work. I need the money. March is in sights, can you feel it? I’m restless. I desperately need fresh, new air and so does that damn cat. We’re suffocating in here- time to let loose! Pretty soon I’ll be looking on the ground for earthworms and signs of new growth and involuntarily wandering into the woods and convince myself Spring is here like I do every year, albeit prematurely. My step will start skipping on its own, as it always does and always will. Good old rejuvenation. Despite the evidence to the contrary.
There’s something about faith in there.
And what of the specifics of Manuscriptland? Maybe one day you’ll know.
More than likely after I’m dead.