2019 will have some major challenges.
I am working while raising three kids as a single mom. I am trying hard to finish a terminal degree that will allow for more opportunities at work (ei, more money, health insurance, stability). My porch needs some repair as well and there is a deadline on this.
Fine, those are the musts.
But what about my dreamings? What visions of success can I lay out to keep me focused? And with that I present to you the 2019 Goal List and Theme Word:
Going beyond writing and sending out work every day.
Quote of the year:
“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
Finish poetry manuscript revision and send out.
Write and publish eight essays.
Rebuild porch corner
Plant eight trees
Kitchen counters addressed
HVAC system figured out
Write a poem a day
Workout 3-4 times a week
10,000 steps every day
Make bed every morning
Paint welcome sign
Hang porch lights
Travel to two new places
Write thank you cards
Invent a world
“First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you're inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won't. Habit is persistence in practice.”
― Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories
I am trying to maintain my focus, being present in my own life, so much to do on the to do list. This started as a facebook post and got way out of hand. I thought I would take more time and flesh it out a bit more. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What are you doing to keep focus?
My creative goals: Read a book every week, a poem every day. Screenplay draft. Chapbook draft. Submit new poetry work. Schedule readings. Cookbook. Memoir. Novel. 5 year timeline.
Here are some things I am trying out.
What are you doing to meet your creative goals?
I know it is August. August always feels like a new beginning. School starts. Summer is over. We all feel a bit older, yeah?
I found this list I made in 2016 when I first moved to Savannah:
Goals for 2016:
Write at least an hour each day.
Read as much as I can get my hands on.
Revise and send out work.
Meet IRL the local poets here in Georgia.
Take more photographs.
Send that work out too.
Research MFA programs.
Send out chapbooks and whole book.
Set up Etsy store for framed art.
Find a church. Go.
Write handwritten letters to people I love.
Keep in touch.
Find time 3x a week to do something physical.
Find a counsellor. Go.
Find a massage therapist. Go.
Find a nice way to turn down dating invitations. *Keep to it.
The really cool thing about this list is the only thing I have yet to do is the etsy shop for my professional goals and find a church for personal (we have been to a few, still looking for the one that clicks)..
But look too what these goals yielded in both 2016 and 2017. That book that I sent out became a published collection! I toured with it. It is on Amazon.com. I know a lot of local poets and writers now and they are fabulous and supportive. I did a lot of breathing. A lot of breathing. Two galleries hung my photographs. I bought a house. Gravel Hill. A five bedroom plantation house on just about four acres and near enough to the city. I have bees again. Land. Trees. I lost 20 more lbs. My kids rocked their first year of public school. I accepted my first dinner invitation and it was magical, healing, and that's all I will say about that.
And through it all I wrote, sent out work, read, talked about writing.
This list felt impossible when I made it. Impossible.
This new list feels that way too:
Goals for 2107/2018
Get up the online store
Finish screenplay draft
Revise book 2 enough to send out first half as a chap
Update camera equipment
Blog once a week
Grow the writers' retreat
Find full time employment that still meets my parenting goals
Host a new writer's group (idea might work)
Poetry Reading in NYC
Find a church, go.
Regain lost muscle tone
Workout 3x a week
Eat better, more vegetables
Get porch repaired and painted
You can still buy copies online. :)
I am so grateful for all the support and early purchases. I have started the process to book readings and signings now. If you want me to come read to you, let me know and I can haul out my box of books and mug of coffee and work some poetry magic for you and your friends. Right now, I'll be in the Midwest June 1-June 15th. April is almost all free up for the Georgia area folks, I'm thinking Decatur and Atlanta may get me for a day or so. I'll keep a calendar updated, somewhere here and post events as they are planned.
This is work, y'all. Secretarial work. I am still formatting, filing, and sending out work from my second book. Hopefully that too will find a home here soon and 2018 will be busy too. Every day, one hour goes to this work. I'd rather be writing and out there taking pictures, honestly. But both parts have to happen to be an artist AND get the work out there. This is not an occupation for lazy folk, for certain.
For now though, sit back and enjoy the warm winter breezes on the front porch, the clear night skies, and the music that fills my house daily.
This is it. The book I have been writing for the last twenty three years. The one with the nearly twenty year gap in the middle. There are poems in here that began on paper when I was a child and a few that spilled out while hauling pigs across the Iowa landscape, Some were written while under my desk on a mountain in Vermont, a crown of them while at the Kafka Snob Cafe in Prague, and the rest here and there in Georgia. Geography is crisscrossed, a cats cradle game with map pins and string.
A couple weeks back Savannah Podcast came to Gravel Hill and interviewed me.
The interview is here: http://savannahpodcast.com/multimedia-archive/poet-finds-a-sense-of-belonging/
Orlando also did a write up in Connect Savannah:
And so it begins. Please consider pre-ordering my book, friends. It would mean the world to me.
Thank you, Danelle
Blogging is complicated for me.
What purpose am I spilling ink here? Should I be so un-private about my life and struggles? Should I give my talent away or send these essays off for publication somewhere else?
Is this branding? Reality show? Or a newsletter update for fans of my work?
Two years ago, these answers were easy. This blogging I was toiling at was a journal of my life, love letters to my children, and also used my ex husband's family to market our farm products. Slowly it became just the latter and in the divorce we agreed to take the children and their lives offline.
And my photography is shifting to being placed in galleries and used for book covers so it cannot be put online as much either.
So what now? Does this new space simply become a listing of my writing life? Random thoughts on poetry and art? Maybe an archive of accountability. Lists. My beloved lists.
Here is my list for the week, a good start to breathing this space back to life.
1) Finish up the State Fair poem I am working on
2) Bake a loaf of bread
3) Finish painting dining room and clean up
4) Dry lay bathroom tile
5) Write an essay and send it out, for fun, see what happens
6) Take a picture of something beautiful
7) Read Elizabeth Bishop
8) Finish a novel that I love already.
That's it for my professional goals this week. Taking it easy, as you can see.
Today someone asked why I post so much about Ossabaw Island and the writer's retreat. I work for them is a short answer. The less short answer is why I work there. The longest explanation involves an alligator, a near death experience over bacon (not my own), a trip to Prague, a divorce, and a publishing deal in 2016. Today you get the less short answer.
In 2014 I went to the writer's retreat, as a cover to study the pigs on the island to grow better, more humane pork on my own farm in Iowa. I had given up writing, other than blogging, nearly two decades before that. But? The poetry was dormant in me, just beneath the surface. The workshops and the discussions over meals, the gentle guidance of the faculty and the friendships made that year were priceless. I returned home to Iowa with poetry bleeding out of me.
I wrote. I revised. I hid it still. Then a fellow writer, Emily, from the island emailed me a list of websites to send my work to, a link to duotrope, and some kind words. I took the leap, sent out work. It felt like opening a wrong healed wound. Not long after, actually 48 hours, I got my first acceptance.
Later that summer, Tony Morris, the director of the retreat, called me and encouraged me to return for the 2015 retreat. He offered more words of encouragement. I took on extra work, in our busiest harvest season on the farm, to pay for it and a plane ticket.
Going back was more transformative than the first time. I dug in to the workshops, relaxed at the social gatherings, laughed hard and wrote furiously. 15 other writers gathered on the island as cohort. This second retreat was where I fell in love with words again, the experience of writing, of baring my soul and story. I was dizzy head over heels in love with writing. My writing changed from dry technically narrative poems, to line by line heart wrenching, my technical craft became more refined. Confidence made writing sexy. I wanted to write all the time, infatuated, a rekindled love I had forgotten and estranged for too long.
Writers need experiences like this. I needed this. Best investment I have ever made in myself, personally. Better than a spa day, or therapy, or college classes.
And my passion continues, as many of you know. To give back, I volunteer my time to the retreat. I want to bring more people to the island but also to that point in their writing life too. You don't need an MFA to write your life. You don't need to be a professor. What matters more, at least to me, is community. Many of our writers come to the island with a story and leave with the tools to tell it well. Some come with notebooks full of poems that they've never shown anyone (like me). How brave.
I am grateful everyday for the friendships (looking at you Tracy May Fuad,Holly Peterson, Jennifer Johnston, Patty Evans Jordan Tamra Higgins,Lenore Hart Poyer, Victoria Mitchell, to name a few) that I made there, that have carried me through the worst year of my life (divorce after 18 years of marriage) and into the best one (my own house and book deal and WARM WEATHER and poetry!).
To sum up? You know a writer like me, like I was two years ago. You do. Encourage them, help them get there (wherever there is for them). Fundraise tuition, drive them cross country, give them your air miles for a plane ticket. Pass on the blessings we have had to get us where we are. If you are that writer and no one knows? Tell someone. Say it aloud. Tell yourself, I am poet/novelist/memoirist. I am writer. Then write.
Life has taken me away from here a bit. Since Vermont I have moved three times, been reuinted with my children (custody exchange), bought a house, and slowly began healing from a very hostile end to an eighteen year marriage.
The big thing for me was landing back on earth, finding a new nest and refuge. The Universe collided and the stars fell from the sky- I found a house online and kept looking at it when I'd have midnight crying spells, a comfort. I'm not the only one who finds Realtor.com comforting, yeah?
But then I was in Georgia and not in Vermont or Iowa. The house in question was thirty minutes away from where I was staying. One late night, after a very stressful day with my new landlord, I sent away and email asking about it.
And that's where it all started.
This is where one story ends and this one begins. This new place is already full of poetry and love and laughter. There are fig trees and blueberry bushes, big open rooms full of light, hardwood floors, slamming screen doors, lizards on the porch rail, and I can see the stars at night again.
First week, done. Reading aloud, done. Walking in the blue hour, magical. This is just before the snow started fall again, gently and whispering. I was nervous, but I survived.
The creative process, being immersed without interruption, is so much different than scribbling poems on feed receipts while pulled over on the side of the road waiting for gravel graders to pass the intersection. Not better, but different. This first week was learning to walk on the bottom of the ocean and not drown.
Also, the days become marked in passage by the rapt attention to meal times and the promise of sweet things for dessert. We all emerge it seems, on the dot of the clock, drooling and ready for nourishment and maybe too the company of others after being alone with our own muse for hours on end? Summer camp for introverts?
I must run now, mealtime is in 7 minutes and I have to walk in the freezing rain to get there on time......
Today was harder. I'm unpacked, settled in, yet....unsettled inside my own head.
I had to choose 9 pages for the visiting poet to look at and the task was so so big. I stood, in tears, looking at my work pinned to my wall. Feeling little. I wanted to impress and yet I also want help with a few pieces and that is valuable too. So? I threw a pen at the wall like a dart and the ones it hit, went in the pile.
Then I picked them up and pinned them back to the wall. I have to be more practical. So I picked out different ones. 15 minutes to the deadline, no stapler to be found, I bobby pinned the pages and ran them over to the main building.
It was snowing. Let me tell you, the snow here is polite. It's sweet and fluffy like baby ducks, or a snow globe wonderland. In Iowa snow starts out freezing rain, turns to daggers, and then tries to splinter your bones from the inside out. And that's before the wind jumps in the fray. In Iowa snow tears you up. In Vermont, snow tickles and teases.
I made it to the main millhouse offices and overheard the admin telling an applicant on the phone about the waiting lists and applicant pool. Thousands. Thousands of artists apply to come. As per my usual oblivious self, I had no idea. Actually I applied thinking I would never get in. As you can imagine, overhearing this, sent me to puddle state again. Seriously? How did I get in here?
At dinner someone asked me how I was settling in and all of this spilled out. She laughed. Everyone feels like this? It's cute.
Sigh of relief. And now to get to work. Grateful for the universe answering my yoga pants and latte plea for a fix to the chaos and pain that was my life a year ago. Seriously. Go out and stand under this wishing moon and see what happens next......