Friday, March 09, 2018

Naps and Stepping Away from the Party...

Right now, many poets & writers are in the middle of one of the biggest events of the year--AWP. And this year, in Tampa.

Seeing photos come across Twitter--especially of the bookfair, occasionally makes me for yearn for those magical moments of meeting a favorite poet or walking finally meeting the people you've only known from the online world.

Of course, for me, this would not have been the year to go.
I believe all our lives have seasons, seasons of outreach and seasons of pulling back. 

This year, I have a lot going on personally in my life, professionally at TwoSylvias Press, and even creatively--I'm writing more poems and am finishing up my 4th collection. I've been busier than ever and working to make sure I get time with my IRL (in real life) friends and family. 

I've also needed a lot more sleep this year. I've been coming home from work, walking into the house and taking a nap from 5 - 6 p.m.  I know, right? People are sitting down to dinner and I am falling asleep. I wake up, have dinner, some family time, maybe a walk, and then return to bed at 10 p.m. And then I sleep a full 8-9 hours.

While a part of me is silently freaking out that I have been needing (wanting?) so much sleep, another part says-- You did even catch a cold this winter and that terrible flu blew right by you. It also says, When you wake up, you feel good, you're ready for the second part of the day.

A few times, I've taken a nap at work around 1 pm when I can't even make it to evening.

I started a bullet journal and really realized how much offline time I needed. I'm returning to books and walks. Like how we try to monitor our kids' screen time, as adults, we should be aware of our own. 

A few days before Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday, I deactivated my Facebook account. After a week of not showing up, I thought--maybe this is what I should give up for Lent... so I did. I stay on Twitter because it never pulls me in the way FB does. If Facebook is the spotlight on our lives, Twitter feels like the candle and it's so big, I'm just a flicker among the galaxy of poets.

As creative people, I think we need to listen to what our bodies and mind needs at all times. Sometimes we need to go big, reach out, interact, tweet, post on Facebook, bloggity-blog-blog. But other times whether it be because of news, our own personal life or families, our own creative work, we need to go smaller and explore less.

There is no one way or one right way or one forever way. I am pretty sure, I will return to Facebook once I feel the need to be there again. I've got a strong circle of friends who keep up with me whether I'm on or off Facebook, and are still in touch. You learn who misses you and who your true people are when you slip away from a big party. Who notices you're no longer there, who reaches out. 

The kind of funny thing about this blog is I promised to blog once a week (which I have been keeping up), but when I'm feeling smaller, or more inward reach than outer, I think-- I really have nothing interesting to say! So hopefully there's something you're finding useful here--maybe it's just to say, social media is one big party that you can leave or hang out in as much as you like.  Make sure it's a tool *you* are using, and not vice versa.

And take more naps. Yes, that's exactly what I can offer you.

Continue on, friends. It's almost spring!

~ Kells

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Confession Saturday: How To Float

Dear Reader, 

Sometimes I do a confession Saturday, but it's the last day to get my weekly blog in, so I thought I'd do a confession Saturday since I realize I've kind of disappeared a bit from social media --I have been tweeting less and am off Facebook.

I confess when life feels too big, I get quieter. I don't disappear in my own life, in fact, I've been busier than ever, but I've quit showing up online as much. 

I confess I am not into drama, not my own or not others. I do not like conflict nor watching people treat each other poorly or to see one person act terribly or even just rudely towards another. Sometimes this is when Facebook feels like middle school and I can't/don't tolerate that.

If I could give you a recommendation, I recommend surrounding yourself with people who help you float on and who do not try to pull you under. 

Know the friends in your life who you can write to, turn to, text, email, call, when things feel hard or heavy. Know the friends who you can pick up after 3 months or 3 years. These are your people.

Know who will help you float through this world.

I confess in general, my real life has been busier than ever, not quieter. I have spent a lot of time with friends--seeing Fran Leibowitz, teaching at Western Washington University, dinners, lunches, teaching a class in Seattle, and other moments that have dotted my calendar.

Yesterday I floated for an hour in a sensory deprivation pod. It was a surreal experience where you feel as if you might be in space, as if you are weightless.

this looks like a giant toilet, but it feels like a galaxy

I was hoping for some huge breakthroughs in my writing or my life, what I received was 55 minutes of absolute quiet and relaxation with minor breakthroughs about life.

While I did manage to get salt in my eye and forget to put my eyeplugs in & turn off the light and have to immediately exit the tank to reset myself up, I found that I need just time to meditate, to nap, to sit, to quiet, to float.

I would do it again.

I confess my weekly blog post has been harder for me because of a busier than normal personal life, but also because I feel much more like I am like a pod these days, more self-contained. 

I know eventually this feeling of smaller life and smaller world will pass and I will return to a more interactive online life.

I just have a lot on my schedule and figuring out life on a personal level as well--how these next four years will look, or even smaller--how summer & fall will be, what are my plans, where I am going.

But know, I'm okay and just trying to get through these next few months with a lot on my work schedule and in my personal life.

But currently floating on... and sending you all love. 

~ Kells 

Friday, February 23, 2018

What's Old is New Again: 5 Common Traits of Successful Artists

Note: I originally posted these 5 Common Traits in 2010, but the comments below them in blue are 2018 new.


I somehow 
wandered upon this blog by Lori McNee that posted what they thought the 5 traits of successful artists were.  They focus on visual artists, but I think many of these work for writers too. 

I'll put my own thoughts below in blue text...

5 Common Traits of Successful Artists:

1.  Art is the core of their lives. Successful artists wake up and go to sleep thinking about art. They carve out time in their day making art or marketing it. (In fact, for these artists, there seems to be no clear distinction between the creativity of making and marketing.) If they have a full-time job, it is secondary in their minds to art and mostly a means to and end. Their real job  is being an artist.

-- Here's something you may not know about me--I go to sleep ordering my manuscript in my head. Or I play with the title or different titles right before taking a nap. I think about a specific poet all day and am unclear why they are in my head. Yesterday was Delmore Schwartz. The day before Frank O'Hara.

Sometimes my poetry life gets so intermingled with my regular life, I call up a friend to tell her they have these new protein bars named after the Anne Sexton poem, "Her Kind." --"No," she says, "They're just called 'Kind' bars."  I'm confused, I'm SURE the wrapper read, "Her Kind." I am wrong.  

2.  Successful artists understand how business works in the art world. Successful artists understand the entrepreneurial aspects of making a living as an artist. When they encounter something new or unusual on the business side, they investigate and learn to do it or delegate the task. They know the value of relationships and network in person and through social media.  

--This feels like a nice way of saying, Don't be a big baby or a huge jackass if something doesn't go your way or you don't know how to do something.  And you don't need to understand exactly how something works, but if you are confused, do research or ask someone. It's okay not to know something, but there are so many resources with the internet at our fingertips, you can find things out for yourself with just a few keystrokes.  

Successful artists have a strong work ethic. They  manage themselves, their creative energy and resources. They balance the time to produce art and to market it. Whatever rhythm of working they choose, they stick to it. Whether these artists enjoy the business tasks or not, they know they must be done  and they do them without complaint or resentment.

---"Make sure you are creating more than you consume." And I thought, yes, that's an important element to think about as poets, writers, & artists. If you find yourself always in passive moments--watching a TV show, reading posts that you really don't care about, scrolling some endless feed (words or photo), you are consuming. If you are writing, interacting with another poet on a collaboration, doing writing prompts, reading a poem then responding to it, writing a blog post, a review, an essay, a journal entry, you are creating.  

Successful artists are resilient. They know that success does not happen overnight – it requires hard work. These artists understand that things don't always work out the way they expect. When they make mistakes, they focus on solutions, not on regrets. They learn from experience and experiment to improve on any success they have.

--- This is so true. I've send some of the best poets aren't the ones who are the best, but they are the ones who won't stop writing, who won't give up. They don't let a rejection, a NO, a missed award, an overlook, stop them. I know an incredible poet who you will never hear about because they have stopped submitting because the rejection part was too hard to handle. It's a loss for the readers in the world when that happens. 

I have made huge mistakes as a poet, from sending my Visa bill in with a snailmail submission, to missing a deadline, to writing a terrible poem and thinking it was good. We all do it (okay, maybe not mailing in your Visa bill), but mistakes will be made, failures will happen, and so what.

Keep writing. 

Successful artists spend time only with people who are 100% supportive of their art career. They limit their time and emotional involvement with people who are negative  especially about art as a career choice. If people close to them have the skills and inclination to be more directly involved in their art career, the artist can produce more and better. Successful artists do not allow unsupportive people to be an obstacle to their plans for success.

--If you make one change in your writing life this year, this is one thing you should do-- keep the positive, supporting people in life. Do not hang around with wet blankets, people who bring you down or do not support your art.

If you need to get offline because it's too much information, negativity, or people you don't really care about, do so. Hide or mute accounts that bring you down. Unfollow, deactivate, take a break, hide your laptop. 

You do not need to apologize for not tweeting or not posting on Facebook. These are volunteer jobs and if you don't show up, it's okay. It's important to create boundaries, compassionate boundaries, in our life. 

Until next time, 

~ Kells 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Poem by Matthew Olzmann: Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

I committed to blogging once a week. This week, I'm shaken by another school shooting and the deaths of children and a country that won't respond.

Just know, I'm focusing on my editing work and my family & friends. I'll return to my own work and hopefully a better attitude next week.

But for now,
I offer you this poem by Matthew Olzmann for this week's blog:

Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czesław Miłosz

You whom I could not save,
Listen to me. 
Can we agree Kevlar
backpacks shouldn’t be needed
for children walking to school?
Those same children
also shouldn’t require a suit
of armor when standing
on their front lawns, or snipers
to watch their backs
as they eat at McDonalds.
They shouldn’t have to stop
to consider the speed
of a bullet or how it might
reshape their bodies. But
one winter, back in Detroit,
I had one student
who opened a door and died. 
It was the front
door to his house, but
it could have been any door,
and the bullet could have written
any name. The shooter
was thirteen years old
and was aiming
at someone else. But
a bullet doesn’t care
about “aim,” it doesn’t
distinguish between
the innocent and the innocent,
and how was the bullet
supposed to know this
child would open the door
at the exact wrong moment
because his friend
was outside and screaming
for help. Did I say
I had “one” student who
opened a door and died?
That’s wrong.
There were many.
The classroom of grief
had far more seats
than the classroom for math
though every student
in the classroom for math
could count the names
of the dead. 
A kid opens a door. The bullet
couldn’t possibly know,
nor could the gun, because
“guns don’t kill people,” they don’t
have minds to decide
such things, they don’t choose
or have a conscience,
and when a man doesn’t
have a conscience, we call him
a psychopath. This is how
we know what type of assault rifle
a man can be,
and how we discover
the hell that thrums inside
each of them. Today,
there’s another
shooting with dead
kids everywhere. It was a school,
a movie theater, a parking lot.
The world
is full of doors.
And you, whom I cannot save,
you may open a door
and enter a meadow, or a eulogy.
And if the latter, you will be
mourned, then buried
in rhetoric. 
There will be
monuments of legislation,
little flowers made
from red tape. 
What should we do? we’ll ask
again. The earth will close
like a door above you.
What should we do?
And that click you hear?
That’s just our voices,

the deadbolt of discourse
sliding into place.

Originally published on the Academy of American Poets "Poem-a-Day"

~ Kells

Thursday, February 08, 2018

On Rejection: And Some Advice from Drag Queens Too...

I'm leading a class on submitting and publication with Susan Rich on Saturday and it has me thinking about rejection and how it can mess with us as poets, writers, and artists.

Being rejected is part of the deal as a poet. It's doesn't always make it better to know that, but it's true. You will be rejected more than you are accepted. You will celebrate an acceptance then sadly weep into morning coffee over a rejection that rolls in the next day. 

Sometimes you will receive rejection after rejection after rejection and like Jinkx Monsoon, you say, "Water off a duck's back, water off a duck's back."

(By the way, Jinkx won that season...) 

And since we're talking drag queens (and RuPaul's All Stars is on tonight).

Here's some other advice I've learned from drag queens:

Boos are just applause from ghosts. 
   ~ Sharon Needles

Don't be bitter, just get better.
  ~ Alyssa Edwards

Ultimately, this is a marathon not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. Yes, you may trip over a patch of rejection or get all sparkly-eyed over that rare acceptance bird you found, but what it comes down to is writing the poem. 

Control what you can control-- reading, writing, submitting.

Let the rest work itself out. And if you get a rejection, remember Sylvia Plath's "I love my rejections, they show me I try." 

My advice?

Life is short. Do your best. Make good art.

~ Kells ________________
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