Archive for November 15, 2013

The Writing Life: The Good, the Bad, and the Mundane

When I teach creative writing, I like to show clips of movies that depict the writing life.  One of my favorites is the 80’s dark comedy, Throw Momma From the Train starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.  If you haven’t seen this movie in a while, let me refresh your memory.  One of the main characters is a community college professor who is suffering from writer’s block.  While struggling with his writing, he is also teaching creative writing and battling his own feelings of anger against his ex-wife who has allegedly stolen his novel.

When I show clips of this movie to my students and ask them to comment about the writing life, many respond that it’s “mundane” (after they get over the initial shock that yes, writers used to write on typewriters!!!)

I’ve been thinking about this movie (and my student responses) the last few weeks as I slowly try to clean up my poetry files in preparation for the new year.  Yes, there are good things about the writing life.  Wonderful new work that falls from your pen or pencil or keyboard. The acceptances, of course.  Attending writing conferences and readings. Correspondence between writers.  Working with editors.  Just the simple act of reading a great poem, or a wonderful collection, or a fantastic book.

Then there’s the bad.  One word.  Rejection.  That’s all you need in this category.

Finally, there is the mundane.  Waiting for responses — any kind of responses.  Sending out single works and collections.  Writing cover letters.  Figuring out individual submission managers.  Tracking down seemingly lost submissions.  Reorganizing manuscripts.  Sometimes, revising, especially if you can’t get a work quite right would also fall into this category.

Lately, most of my writing life seems to fall into this third category.  I have been tracking down seemingly lost poems, withdrawing poems from journals that are either taking too long (yes, I believe that over 12 months is way too long) or are shutting down (if the website has not been updated in over 9 months, I believe that is a warning sign).  This past year has not been a good one when it comes to submissions and I want to start off the new year with a fresh slate — or as fresh as I can get it.