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 

________________ 
 www.agodon.com 
www.twosylviaspress.com

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like perfection! Residencies have become essential to my writing practice. It's where I can generate new drafts/work, where I can truly frame a space that's quiet and expansive enough to listen to my self's self.

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  2. This sounds fantastic. I love the quiet rule. I attended a large (maybe 30 poets) multi-day workshop several years back where we took common meals. It became clear after the first day that we needed a clearly labeled quiet table where people could eat without interacting and without seeming rude, because so many people, especially at breakfast, really needed/wanted to filter out outside input at the start of their writing day.

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