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On Theses & Balancing Acts

Hello all!

It's amazing to think we're already on the last legs of summer. Although it's only just September, I've already donned my skeleton earrings in an attempt to hasten the fall on. The 90 degree weather hasn't seemed to get the hint yet, but I remain hopeful the weather will begin to cool down soon.

The summer passed me by more quickly than it usually does. As opposed to last summer, where a job I thought I had fell through and suddenly I had only writing to fill the long, hot hours, I've spent this summer exclusively working. Working, commuting, eating occasionally and sleeping as consistently as I could. The only thing that broke up the monotony of the routine was some unfortunate car trouble that resulted in it being out of commission for more or less two months, and me afraid of driving it the hour and a half to get to and from work. We made do, and now all seems like it's back to normal (knocking on all the wood, mind you,) but it put a dent in my finances and my will to live. So it's refreshing to have those two rebounding in good time.

The end of summer also means the start of the new academic year, and with me still completing a degree program, it means balancing my work committments with teaching, attending workshop, my duties as Editor-in-Chief of Salt Hill Journal and generally scrambling to take care of myself. And I understand my relationship to my work has become incredibly dependent on my creative/professional output. I understand that mentality is not a sustainable one to have long-term. The worst days of my depression now happen to coincide with the days where I have time for myself. Take Labor Day, literally yesterday. I got physically nauseous at the prospect of relaxing. I bought groceries, I ate, I slept, I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom, and I felt so guilty I almost cried. And that's not a good thing. I don't earn any brownie points by burning myself out beyond recognition, and we seem to be going down that slippery slope quicker than I imagined we would. But I think recognizing it this early has allowed me time to course correct. It doesn't feel inevitable so much as it is an ongoing concern, but one I can sidestep with careful planning and consideration for myself and my thresholds.

I'm trying my best to not hyperfixate on the small things, I'm trying not to project motivations onto people's actions and assume the worst is going to happen at all times---it takes too much time. It takes too much energy, energy and time I do not have. And so, as I usually do when I have that urge, I have begun channeling it into a new manuscript, entitled Blue Traveler. It's a baby manuscript now---only some 16 pages strong, but the work is strong. I have the same inkling about it that I did when I began work on Bad Animal in earnest, and the poems are doing new things, taking new directions. It's exciting, and I'm more than okay with being towed along for the ride. The work has always been smarter than I am.

But I can't acknowledge this new manuscript without talking about disappointment too---my second manuscript, entitled Patrizate, is now on its second round of submissions, and I'm starting to give up hope. There are moments of optimism, moments where I believe the work is strong, but as the days pass and the rejections stack up against it, the moments get smaller and smaller until I'm clutching the one poem I haven't lost faith in and wondering if it's completely dead in the water. I have ideas about how to revamp it for a next round of submissions, but the prospect of going back to the drawing board for a third time, completely stripping it of the third act and restructuring it like I sense it needs to be restructured is really depressing me. This manuscript was my true baby, my true first book. I came into my MFA program with an earlier, infintely more juvenile version, and while I'm so beyond thrilled it wasn't published as my first book, I feel protective of it in its new version. I actually believed in this version. And so I find myself asking the question every writer asks themselves at this point in the process: where do I go from here with this project if I am its only advocate?

And while I ponder this problem, I am intensely aware of the pressure I am putting on myself as well as the pressure of the general poetry world: I published a book. Great! Good for me. What do I do now? The dreaded question: what's next? What are you working on now? Now that the book is out, and people are reading it, and reviewing it, will this new project be good, and get my name out there even more like I hope it will? I do feel at times like I published my book, and now it's faded from view, even though it's only been 2 months since it was published. And while I know that's not true, it's hard to sidestep the doubt that accompanies such feelings. I don't regret my publishing journey with Bad Animal, let me be perfectly clear, but I do wonder if I should be doing more to promote it and how I do that now that it's no longer brand new. As a publicist myself, I understand more than most people the work that goes into promoting work, and how most of that happens before publication day. And that was two months ago. So what now?

I guess these days I generally have more questions than answers. I'm generating new work, and it's good (at least I think it is,) but I wonder and wonder and wonder some more about where I'm going and what my writing will become, and what books I will write. I have plans for at least two more collections after Bad Animal, Patrizate, and Blue Traveler. They require a ton of research, and I'm waiting until I have that time to really get into them. You could say I don't know when to stop, and you'd be right. And before this runs the risk of becoming a diary entry, I think it's important to note that a lot of this stems from the old fear: the fear of being unremarkable, obscure, rejected. All of us deal with these fears, of course, but right now, these fears are knocking on my door with increasing urgency. I will deal with them as I always have, but it's a hard battle to wage every time. And I don't think I lose anything in admitting that publicly.

So, all this to say, if anyone wants to publish Patrizate, give me a call or email me. I'd be delighted to talk to you about it more then.

Happy Tuesday.


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1 Comment

Sep 06, 2023

You are amazing, Kathryn! Never give up!

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