Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lenox & Hummel Blogs Continued

My Five-Year Plan
Stephanie Lenox

My grant money will soon be depleted, so while I’m trying to savor my last weeks of free writing time, I’m also trying to look forward and find a job that will fit my financial and literary goals. Job searches require a lot of introspection, and on top of the already high degree of reflection required to write poetry, I’m just about sick of personal pronouns and action verbs. I’m embarrassed by all the versions of my resume floating out there in the hands of strangers. I have the unique opportunity to be roundly rejected on all levels on a daily basis—fu-un!

I recently read a slick magazine article about getting what you want. The inspirational writer said that you must have a vision of what life will look like when you achieve your dream. And then you must work backward from that vision to the present. It seemed like a good idea, so I tried it. My five-year plan happens to involve having my first book published and working happily in a career that involves writing. The vision is clear. I can see it. So what happens just before I achieve this dream? Someone other than myself decides I’m worthy of a book contract or a career position. As a writer (read: control freak) I have a really hard time with that.

It’s easy to get side-tracked by the rejections and absence of control that is a part of the writing life. I try to get by with what I can direct: every day that I write, I am a writer. I don’t need someone’s seal of approval to feel like I’m moving forward in that goal. And soon, hopefully, someone will have the common sense to hire me. In the meantime, I need to keep my poems and resumes out there.

Heather K. Hummel

As a person that must eat, and likes luxuries like organic salad, I work a lot. I’ve averaged two jobs at a time since I was twenty. Right now, I technically have four jobs. Wait: I accepted new contract work today: let’s make that five. So, writing is something that goes with me, everywhere. I revise poems while on the treadmill at the gym. They say iambic pentameter is like a heartbeat; perhaps my meter is always going haywire because I work on it during my cardio routine. I could never be a good formalist; I tried once—I didn’t complete a single poem.

My dedication (or dogged persistence, depending on whom you ask) means that I work on poems at the airport. I routinely work on poems as I sleep. For me, it isn’t a matter of finding more hours in the day to write; I multi-task, and take it with me, always. On road trips, I take notes in my journal about historical markers, native plants and birds, what my family says; these bits and pieces will soon show up in my writing, no doubt.

If you were to surprise me and conduct a strip search, you’d probably find in my pockets: keys, a protein bar, a pen and a poem that is in process and covered in illegible scribbles. You’d rarely find cash.

Once, my brother, a visual artist, told me I was lucky: to make my art, all I need is a pencil—he pointed out that I can write on menus or napkins if I need to. And I try to keep that in mind: my “work”—the work I do to pay the bills and eat—is utilitarian. I will do it as much as needed, but my brain-space is mine and dedicated to writing. And if the rhythm and essence of my poetry is imbued with everything I am up to (running, love-making, cooking dinners)? So be it.

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