Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Day in the Life of Writing Residency:

Poetry Fans! (I mean, "fawns")
I am writing this to you from a cabin in the woods. 
I am staying here with another favorite poet/writer/friend of mine, Marty Silano.

The basic breakdown of the day is this:

From the time we wake up, we do not talk. In fact, we do our best to stay out of the way. If I hear Marty making lentil soup in the kitchen, I stay in my room until she's done. These no-talk silent days are important to the writing process, it makes one have to get in touch with herself. You can't bring any unneeded or random info/topics/conversation into the other person's day.

If I am struggling, I have to struggle alone until happy hour, which begins at 5:30 pm (though last night, we didn't leave our rooms until 6:15 pm). That might sound like tough love, but it's good for me. It's good for me to feel uncomfortable and to have to work through something on my own.

Happy Hour begins when one person leaves their room after 5:30 pm. We start happy hour by taking out our favorite appetizers, some bubble water, chocolate, and a bottle of red wine. We sit at the dinner table and talk poetry and our day until one of us says, "Wanna write?"

Last night we wrote 2 or 3 poems, then wanted an inspiring interview with one of our favorite poets on Marty's laptop.  We went to bed around 11:15 pm. She stayed up and read a bit longer, I went straight to sleep. I woke up at 6:15 am.

Other rules:

I do not answer the phone here. My family knows not to call but text if they need anything. Texting keeps the outside world out. It's important for me as a writer to stop the world from breaking an entering. I can be pulled out too easily, I know this.

I have been checking email (which isn't great of me), but thankfully, not many people have written because (guess what), if you aren't emailing people, they aren't responding. 

Stay off social media. (I have broken this yesterday with Twitter when I went to check on a news story and saw the hashtag #PoetsAsFood and hammed it up for a bit) ;-) 

No news, information, or podcast except poetry (and/or art, visual artists). 

I have stayed off Facebook. I know the rule to Facebook is it's really easy to abstain from it if you don't post anything. I always tell myself posting on Facebook is basically giving myself a personal project, so don't do it unless I really really want to and want follow up on that post. 


Self Portrait with Forgotten Suitcase & Laser Printer

My first day at a writing residency is always sketching and concerning.

The reason it is because on my first day of a writing residency, I nap for hours. Short naps, long naps. My first day here I took around 6-7 naps each lasting anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. (Note: I wrote about this in 2013 for VIDA: Her Kind, but the magazine is no longer, so I republished it here on my Medium account if you're interested: Necessary Luxuries: On Writing, Napping, and Letting Go.

Also, I actually had to have my husband drive up my SUITCASE because yes, *that* was the thing I forgot. As you look at my stuffed car, notice there is NO suitcase in any of the photos. Oops. 

But once I get past the first day, here's more what my daily schedule looks like:

Bedtime: 11ish. Before bed, determine the main thing I want/need to do in the morning as the morning is the golden time, the time that shouldn't be wasted. Also, it can be overwhelming for me to wake up without a plan and what to begin or work on, so I try to think about that before bed and also so then while I fall asleep, I can begin poems in my head, think of titles, play with the order of my manuscript, etc. in my head.

5:30-6:30 am: Wake up, flip on switch for coffee (already ready to go!), grab cup of coffee and begin reading, writing, or revising (depending on whatever plan I created the night before).

Today I wrote two new drafts for my manuscript, read four poems from Gabrielle Colvocoressi ROCKET FANTASTIC (recommended reading, btw, love this book.)

Yesterday I reordered my manuscript (first by paper, then on my laptop) and did some revising of individual poems. This took the entire day.

9 am-ish: Breakfast:  Muesli with blueberry yogurt & extra raisins. In my room while reading poetry on my bed. Today, I had breakfast at 7:30 am and my mid-morning snack at noon. I just listen and eat when I'm hungry.

Continue working on poems (either writing or revising)

This is kind of a weird euphoric time. Like today, I wrote poems while listening to Passion Pit's "Carried Away" and I was so happy with a poem I wrote, I felt almost a little dizzy with excitement. When things are falling into place, I can completely get caught up in this feeling, it doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it's magical. 

11-11:30 am: Long, extremely hot shower, think about poems I'm working on or the manuscript as a whole. 

Noon: Snack or lunch. Read poems while eating. Get back to work (possible 15 nap around this time). Today, I'm writing a blog post. 

1:30-2:30 pm: Walk. Listen to a poetry podcast, either Rachel Zucker interviewing Matthew Zapruder on Commonplace (I'm halfway into this episode & enjoying it, will finish it on today's walk) or a New Letters on the Air (Loved the Jericho Brown interview). 

2:30 - 5:30ish: Read a poem or two. Write, revise, come to a good ending place in the day. 

5:30 pm: Happy Hour with Marty. Appetizers, wine, conversation. Then we'll write new poems until 10 or 11.

11 pm: Turn on electric blanket, turn off all devices. Wash up for bed. Sit on bed and decide what my morning plan is. Sleep and dream about poetry. 


So this is why I come here, the stretch of time to write and strictly focus on my work is truly something I am thankful for. I work best with long stretches of time, where I can keep digging deeper.
The trick is allowing yourself to go deep. To not stay on the surface, to turn off the internet, email, social media. Each day I move a bit closer to that goal, sometimes I think I resist because I know how challenging returning to the real world can be (I have had MANY residencies ending with my crying on the way home and not being able to deal with real life once back). I know there is a part of me that fears that, so she tries to keep one foot in the real world so she doesn't go to deep. But I'm trying to lose my footing here, to fall into the rabbit hole and explore what's happening in Bunnyville.

There is so much our minds want to tell us and want to create, if we can just give ourselves the time and quiet to do so, we may be surprised at all we can do. 

xo from the first step into the rabbit hole....

~ Kells 


Thursday, January 11, 2018

What Do You Want to Read About in a Blog Post?

Dear Readers, 

As I was blogging yesterday I realized that I would LOVE to know what topics you'd like me to blog about 


if you have any questions about poetry, creativity, rejections, acceptances, creative process (mine or in general), inspiration, etc. that you would like me to answer.

If so, leave them in the comment section below and the "anonymous" post is open if you are feeling shy (or don't want your name associated with a question).

Or if you'd prefer, email me through January 13th at kelli (at)

~ Kells 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Strange Inspirations: Past Resolutions & Tools to Help You Stay Focused Today

I just went back and read some of my past New Year's Resolutions posts and I realize, I really do not change much. My goals are still my goals. They are boring, they usually have something to do with less time online and returning to the simpler things. 

Here are my Resolutions (or "Suggestions," as I called them, for 2014). These could easily be my resolutions for this year, which the exception of #6 as "Buddy Holly" was my old golden retriever who is no longer on this planet. Of course, more walks with Buddy Holly could be a metaphor into going back into the past or listening to music.

2014 Guidelines  (aka "Resolutions") 

1)  Read more longer content, less shorter content 

     (Basically less Facebook, more book-books).

2)  Consider the opposite.  Question more.  

     Be wary of what the media and people are trying to sell me.

3)  Read email less. Write more paper letters.

4)  Always discover the beauty.

5)  Find myself on more balconies.

6)  More walks with Buddy Holly.

7)  Less work, more play, less work.

8)  ___________________________ (always include space for spontaneity)

9)  Say yes to experiences I feel would add to my life as an writer and artist.  

     Say no to things and people that don't.

I think for me the most important of these as a poet/writer/artist is #9.

Each day we have the opportunity to say yes to things that will bring good creative energy into our lives--what are those things?
We also have the ability to say no to things, yet, because of what I call "decision fatigue" or just pure exhaustion from the amount of info we get daily in our lives, we come home, flip on a switch to a laptop or the TV or an iPad and let the screens entertain us. Sometimes we end up saying "yes" to things that aren't probably the best for our creative lives, or mental health. 

When people ask me what they can do best for their creative life, I say, "Choose your one news source. Don't get sucked into other people's dramas or headlines. Guard your time with your life."

Make no doubt about it, headlines and news are here to manipulate us, sell us something, shock, steal our time. Their goal is to get you to click on a link. Each click is money in their pocket. 

If we're going to speak in the language of money, on this planet, our most important commodity is time. Like we tell our kids when they go into a store with their $10 of birthday money, "Use it wisely."

You have 15 minutes before you need to get ready to go to work, how do you want to spend your time. Yes, it's only 15 minutes, but what can you do in 15 to support your writing life, your art: 

1) Start a new poem
2) Read a poem from a book 
3) Meditate
4) Have a cup of coffee and write ideas in your journal
5) Read an interesting article about art

I am working on being mindful in my actions and making better choices with my time, and it's not always easy. I am trying to bring back my deep focus in life. I can be so distracted, so drawn into the shiny object, the quick fix, the impulse purchase, reaching for my phone when I should be reaching for a pen.

The internet is a lot like healthy eating. We can reach for the sweet quick reward (like Facebook: post a status, get a response! ZING! Dopamine hit!) or we can be more mindful of how many mini cupcakes we are shoving into our mouths. 

Because I don't trust my own willpower, I use tools  like Self-Control & Simple Blocker for Chrome, two apps that let you completely shut down websites that steal your focus. 

Because I can use lose track of the time I spend on Facebook, I have this extension "Stop Scrolling" on my Facebook page because it only lets you scroll for 5 minutes or less. AND it keeps track of how much time you use on FB. Seriously, it adds up.

Another one to hide trending stories on Facebook is Blacklist for FB. It will also hide stories on your newsfeed and posts by other that have specific words you are trying to avoid (politics, president, etc.) --You choose your words. The posts are still accessible, but they are condensed so you don't have to see them.

For my phone I use Forest App, where you can grow virtual trees (and they actually partner with Trees for the Future and plant trees in the real world based on the amount of time their app users use to focus). The negative of this is you have the app going and you get a text that doesn't come through on your laptop, you can't open the text otherwise your tree will die.

The positive of this is that I think sometimes we are too quick to grab our phones and respond to texts or the world calling us. Is it really that bad to wait 30 minutes until your tree grows to text back? I'm learning this.

The other app I love is Pocket-- which is an app for when you see an interesting article you don't have to ruin your flow or focus by reading it, you can simply save it until a time when you want to sit down and read all your saved articles. 

Technology is wonderful when it's not zapping our time. I try to use it to my advantage when I can. I know I'll still get sucked in to some sort of time waster (did you know my high-score on Tetris is 98,000?) but I find the more I care for my artistic pursuits, the less I want to eat the junk food of the internet, the more I reach for the healthy book option and the exercise of writing.

Thanks for reading. Cheers to an inspired year! 

~ Kells ________________

Thursday, January 04, 2018

New Year's Resolutions For Poets, Writers, & Artist: How To Start & Keep a Habit:

As a Capricorn, I love to make lists. I also love to set goals or make resolutions or find ways to exist in the world better. I am nowhere perfect at it, but I see every day as a new beginning and I forget to do something 5 days in a row, I realize picking it back up on the 6th day is better than letting whatever habit or goal I was trying to achieve slip off into the universe to burn out behind some forgotten constellation called New Year's Resolutions.

For me, if I'm serious about a new habit (or resolution), I track it.

How I Start a Habit or Keep a Resolution. There are two ways I do this:

1) Literally mark it down in my journal (I'm starting a bullet journal this year, so more on that if it works out). But basically January 1: Monday ✓, January 2: Tuesday ✓, January 3: Wednesday ✓,....

While I am comfortable in a techy world, I love low-tech. Index cards, journals, post-it notes, let me live in a world of paper. You may want to keep your habit online, maybe through a habit-tracking/goal setting app. For me, a nice chart works perfectly, it's like I'm 5 years old and getting gold stars for picking up my toys. I have the personality where seeing a long row of checked boxes gives me more satisfaction than it should. 

2) Have a group of people or one person I check in with on a certain day of a week.

Such as my Friday Submission Club. Every Friday I have to email a group of poets one place I submitted to during the week. While I wrote a viral post about submitting (Submit Like a Man: How Women Writers Can Be More Successful about the trends I noticed with women when I was the editor of a literary journal), I tend not to submit much. 

Have a group I need to check in with and state where I've submitted, has helped. Plus I get inspiration from them as well as learn new places to submit.


So what are my New Year's Resolutions this year?

1) Read first thing in the morning (before checking email or going online)

2) Realize that when I post on Facebook, I am giving myself a small project-- decide if that is how I am going to use my time

3) Keep more lists 

4) Focus on creative work first 

5) Blog once a week

6) Write daily

7) Find new ways to be generous in the world

8) Share a poem a day (in person or online)

9) Take a daily walk (even if short)

10) Start a journal

****I think the key to all these resolutions is I control them.

I did not write, "Get published in 5 journals this year!" -- because I can't control that. 

If I wanted to get published in 5 journals I'd first write, "Submit to 20 journals." 
Then I'd revise that (because seeing the number "20" feels overwhelming to me) to: "Submit to 1 journal every 2 weeks." Now that seems doable. 

While it make look as if I have a lot of resolutions, they all can actually be done in a short amount of time. If I sit down and write for 10 minutes, that counts as writing. Even 5 minutes.

I am a big believer in small actions add up over time. So while you may not be writing every day, writing once a week for 20 minutes gives you 1040 minutes of writing over the year. Now divide that by 60 minutes, that's 17.33 hours of writing you would have done in a year. That's quite a bit of time. If you stretch yourself and write 30 minutes a week, you'll have 26 hours of dedicated writing in a year, that's over a full-day.

So don't discount the small stuff, whether in kind acts, in writing, in health, it all adds up.

And here's a short list of Resolutions I wrote for poets and writers, but it also works for artists of all genres. Just change that first line to:

1. Make time for your art and your artistic/creative life.

Whatever you are working on, may you continue to stay on track and know that if you get off track, you do not need to wait until January 1 to begin again, you get 365 days of fresh pages every single year. Just wake up and begin again.

Wishing you a creative 2018! xo

~ Kells 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Welcome to Blogland for Poets:

It feels like the first time...

So here we are, 2018, and I'm blogging again, make that *we're* blogging again. There's a group of us who have committed to posting on our blogs once a week throughout 2018.
(The full list is to the left on the sidebar and ordered by newest posts first.)

My posts will focus on living and writing creatively, mostly on poetry, though with a mix of art, humor, inspiration, ideas, and things that come up while living the poet's life.

I am trying to remind myself that this is just one post out of many, so not to feel it must be perfect.

But isn't that the humanness in us? Sometimes we don't do something because we feel we won't be able to do it well enough. 

A long time ago, a friend said to me, "You know, it's okay if you're 'good enough.'" 

And I thought about that and realized all of this grading on "terrible, bad, okay, good, great, super, excellent" is all subjective. My excellent sundae could be your terrible meal. Or my okay day paddleboarding could be your excellent adventure.

I think as humans, we need to try not to be a little easier on ourselves. We should get a few points for trying, for showing up, for being kind, useful, and helpful. We are not perfect and would we even want to achieve perfection? 

Sometimes my best stories are because something went wrong. 

A few days ago I was sitting in a diner and an older gentleman at another table needed medics. Apparently, the look of anxiety on my face was enough that the owner of the diner walked over to me and asked if *I* was alright. Which lightened the situation for everyone. There is a man feeling dizzy and needing a 911 call, but they ask the poet if she needs help. (Spoiler alert: we all need a little help sometimes.)

And the older gentleman? He ended up just fine (it was an issue with blood pressure medicine), but on a perfect day, none of us would have met, and well, his smile, could melt a thousand sundaes. And it's nice to know that both of us were okay.


P.S.  If you want to subscribe to all the post and not think about it, you can sign up in the sidebar and have each post come directly to your email. 
I'll post my New Year's Resolutions later this week, I'm still thinking what they'll be...)

Thanks for coming along for the rides, dear readers. And thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this year journey together, wishing you a glorious and inspired 2018! 

Cheers and Happy New Year! 

~ Kells 
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