violators will be towed: a manuscript update

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Shortly after I published a post about the connection between writing and self-care, I received an email notice about a new post from Trish Hopkinson’s blog* on reframing your poetry manuscript. The post — which is a guest post by  Natasha Kochicheril Moni — caught my eye because I’d been contemplating publishing an update about the status of my poetry manuscript revision.

That update is simple: I no longer know who it is.

I can relate to the standstill/stare-down Natasha describes in the opening of her post. When I go visit my manuscript, it doesn’t even welcome me. There’s no room for me in it anywhere. Not even space for me to park my car out front. Like the warning I saw on a recent trip to Brattleboro, VT: “No parking EVER. Violators will be towed.”

I have been telling myself to grab the poems that still mean the most and start over. But for months and months that felt too much like a break-up (a feeling Natasha also identifies), and I wasn’t ready. I’d nurtured the thing for more than six years. And anyway: I don’t have enough new material to make a clean break. At least not yet.

But new things are brewing.

Natasha’s flow chart has a block title “Take a Break.” I spent months doing just that, and I most definitely have fresh eyes now… which is terrifying. How I loved that collection and all its manifestations!

Now, it’s somewhat of a blessing that it feels like a stranger. Even though I’m still considered an emerging writer, I’m old enough to completely trust the well-known and well-worn-for-good-reason writing advice: kill your darlings. It will be much easier to do that now that I’m not as enamored as I once was.  In fact, I’m going to be especially brutal, I think, and severely limit the list of “poems from the prior manuscript” that carry forth into a new one. I’m thinking 5 to 7.

Ultimately, the math isn’t important. What’s important is to get excited about new work. And to do that, I need to make something. Or more precisely: I *get* to make something.

Here’s to letting go of old things that no longer serve us.

Here’s to the romance that’s possible only when we’re open to being surprised. <3


* Ongoing gratitude to Trish’s blog! It’s a great resource. Also, she republished one of my blog posts almost 2 years ago: 7 ways to cope when you don’t feel like a successful poet. Looking back at her reprint of my post, I chuckled at the photo of myself I’d provided her:  I guess I have become one of those authors who leans heavy into a younger photo. I can only explain it this way: it’s how I see myself. The photo to the right here is also me. A little older. Quite a bit more emotional/raw… though the younger me couldn’t have imagined either of those things had a “more” setting!

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