First, an update on the new planner....I have been using it, off and on. It's not quite incorporated into my routine yet, partly because I went away and the book was a bit too big to take with me; but when I have used it, it has really helped, and I can see that using it consistently could hugely improve my self-organization. The key part is (of course) the part I find hardest: writing the goals I set for the week into an actual time slot on an actual day! But I do like the way it encourages thought about the shape of a day, a week, and even year ahead, and reflection on where one has been and where one is going.
Part of the problem with productivity is avoiding the lure of the internet. This is harder when there is some Seriously Good Stuff to be found. The last couple of days have been a feast of thought-provoking pieces. First, the wonderful Maria Popova of Brain Pickings has some inspirational excerpts from Herman Hesse about books, starting with this:
"Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest… Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books." From his 1930 essay "The Magic of the Book."
Then a facebook friend posted an excellent essay on Rose Kelleher's website Rambling Rose by poet A. E. Stallings debunking some of the common misconceptions about formal poetry. Some of these ideas (formal poetry is anti-feminist, formal poetry is elitist) seem to me ridiculous, but it appears some people do have them; Stallings disposes of them brilliantly.
And then, just when I have been thinking a lot, again, about Gerard Manley Hopkins, I come across a recent piece about him and his dark sonnets in Commonweal by Matthew Boudway. It's complex and thought-provoking and I need to re-read it before I know whether I am on board with everything it says, but anyway it brings eloquently before me once more this brilliant poet and his struggles, so hard to relate to today for those of us in secular society. Hopkins died on June 8th 1889, just shy of 45, after some very miserable months, even years; so it is some comfort to know his last words were apparently "I am so happy. I am so happy. I loved my life."
At least essays like these feed into my writing mind. So much on the internet doesn't, and is distracting or (as with recent news from Orlando) deeply upsetting. Some discipline is required, some filtering, some dedicated time-keeping, and I am (with the planner's help) trying to start working on that....just as soon as I've looked up that reference and checked my Twitter feed....Enough of this "I am an addict" stuff—especially galling as I thought it would never happen to me. (Can I just point out that at least I don't, usually, go online on my phone?) In other news....
Since I last posted here, I've had an exciting experience with my novel Inscription: it was long-listed for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, one of twelve semi-finalist titles chosen out of over 150. Although it wasn't a finalist, this vote of confidence in the book has given me great delight.
It's also a spur to beginning my new book, which is an amorphous blob at the moment, but gradually begins to take shape. (I think. Or am I mad to be saying even this much?) I know, or I trust, that once I have a better idea of where it is trying to go, I will be caught up in it and dedicated to it, as I was when writing Inscription. Though I will still need to make time for working on my poetry and gathering my first collection....
Good luck to all of us handling that slippery medium, language, and walking the tightrope of the writing life!