Sabbaticals, Lessons, and New Sessions
I’ve recently completed my mini-sabbatical experiment and I wanted to share a bit of what I learned in the process.
Before I took the time and made the space, before I told anyone, my wish to write all last month was a thought experiment. I lived with this idea secretly before I committed. I noticed how it made me feel to imagine time set aside to work on the two manuscripts I have in progress. And I noticed how I was hesitating to take on clients and teach anything online, despite plans to do so. I listened to those messages and then I made it official.
In July I claimed 20 straight days for myself (and a few more while teaching The Practice of Poetry on Star Island last week), and while I didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped to, I was happy every single day. I wrestled with high expectations, and the usual challenge of simply writing well, but I had the space to wrestle. The space to see what happened if I stuck with it. The space to recuperate when I felt especially worn out from the work. And I had the space to think and problem solve, which I needed to be able to do in a sustained way.
Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the knowledge I gathered from my time away:
It feels not only good, but necessary to disappear.
Email auto-reply is my ally.
Find a boundary between creative work and life. I chose sitting in a river at the end of each day.
Do something with your hands instead of your brain for a bit. Blueberry picking!
Help friends and family give you space by sharing intentions with them. (I’m blessed with a partner who is also a writer, so we both went deep last month. It’s a monkish life and we love it as only two people whose favorite things are to read and write, do.)
Whenever possible, try to use real world tools instead of electronics: the tactile, the analog, the groundedness of things I can touch instead of the virtual.
To finish a new poem is the best feeling, no matter what happens to it next. I don’t submit my work very often, but the new “Discovery” tool on Submishmash is a convenient way to find out about publication opportunities. I also recommend subscribing to their newsletter for timely reminders.
I’m putting the finishing touches on my 2018-2018 teaching calendar and will release that later this month, along with new prices for all Poetry Forge offerings. If you like to plan ahead, and save money, I encourage you to register now for the 21 Day Poetry Challenge, Poetry Immersion, A Secret Life, and even my once per year, manuscript incubator: A Body of Work. As always you can find out about all of these things on my website, or by reaching out to me directly with your questions and interest.