Tag Archives: Writing

Yellow Jackets and the Demons of Indecision

By the time this post appears, it will have been a week since the exterminator came and took care of the yellow jacket problem in my back yard.

I didn’t know the exterminator had even arrived until my husband called me around mid-morning to say he’d received an invoice for the exterminator’s services via email. My husband was in San Diego at the time, attending the Comic Con.

I was surprised because the appointment had been scheduled for 2:00 PM., and  because it was raining cats and dogs when I’d left the house at around 8:20 AM. I was attending a conference in town.

Of course, it makes much more sense to extract a wasp’s nest first thing in the morning. That’s when the nest is most occupied by wasps.

I just hadn’t thought of it.

Still, I was in doubt. I couldn’t  fathom that the heavy rain and wet conditions wouldn’t interfere with the extermination. Honestly, I half-expected the phone call was to cancel.

But my husband confirmed that, yes, according to the exterminator, the wasps had in fact been “augmented” from the yard. It was a sizable nest, my husband quoted the exterminator as saying, probably 500 wasps or more. There is a chance that a few are still buzzing around looking for their home, but they won’t last long without their nest,” my husband continued.

Something about this last observation made me feel cold-hearted.

I’m not confessing a secret love for yellow jackets here, or anything like that, but I have to admit to experiencing some residual feelings of guilt over creating a situation that caused the death of hundreds of innocent creatures. Those yellow jackets were, after all, only behaving as yellow jackets do: making and protecting their home, creating more yellow jackets, and generally building an existence.

It just so happened that their existence was interfering greatly with ours.

Specifically, they made it impossible to mow the yard, first by attacking my husband when tried mowing the back yard before we left town, then attacking a friend, who tried to mow just the front yard while we were gone.

They simply had to go.

Still, I couldn’t help imagining those few surviving wasps, stunned and confused, hovering around the hole in the ground that was once their nest. Couldn’t help but sense their groundlessness.

Such are the thoughts of a writer.

But then I realized that, since the extermination had been taken care of, my afternoon was free.I felt cheered, then, and shifted my thoughts to how to spend the rest of my day.

And this, dear reader, is precisely the moment that the demons of indecision appeared.

A virtual drop-down list of options, including everything from doing homework for the conference to editing my manuscript, finishing a quilt I’ve been sewing to taking a nap with the cat, to going to the gym or staying on campus to work on my syllabus, all popped into my mind.

Good options, all. But together, potentially overwhelming.

Especially since I am apt to paralyze myself with indecision in these moments.  I mean, just making the decision to eat out, for example, can evolve into a mental debate of what and where to eat.

Choosing to write opens an even wider array of menu options: should I write poetry or prose, something formal or informal, personal, creative or academic?  Should I write something new or revise something old? Should I catch up my correspondence by sending cards or composing emails?

Really, the list is endless.

The point is, I tend to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to decisions. I feel I must make the absolute best decision and fear that making the “wrong” decision will result in drastic, long-lasting consequences which I neither wanted nor intended.

Even though this has never happened.

Still, it is true that no matter what I choose to do, I am choosing NOT to do a whole host of other things. If I write, I am not exercising. If I do homework, I am not working on my poetry manuscript. If I work on my blog at Starbucks, I am not working on my quilt at home.

And of course, making no decision at all is a decision in itself.

So it is that with every choice I make, I feel a little bit of grief and a smidgen of sorrow. Like those stunned wasps unhoused by the exterminator, my unchosen options hang around searching for a home – a place into which to burrow and build an existence.

But such are the thoughts of a writer.

AWP Poets, Writers, Authors, and Teachers Plan Protests in DC

Usually around this time of year my Facebook and Twitter feeds are overrun with cheerful posts about the various AWP events that my friends and colleagues are planning to attend, but with all the attention-grabbing, anxiety-ridden news that has daily shocked social media these last few weeks, it’s almost as if everyone has forgotten.

They haven’t, of course. There are still shouts out among fellow writers and acquaintances trying to connect with each other, tips for first time attendees and, because this year’s conference is in DC, some encouraging chatter about several politically centered events.

Maybe what’s really happening here is that posts about AWP are just getting buried by all the fearful factoids and scary statistics swirling around all forms of media right now. Or maybe, and this is probably more likely, those are the posts I allow to capture and hold my attention.

I am struck, nonetheless, by the auspiciousness of AWP, a conference that attracts a wide range of diverse writers, taking place in DC just weeks after the inauguration and subsequent Women’s March and the more recent protests against the Muslim Travel Ban, and how this confluence of events adds gravity and weight to such typical pre-AWP activities as making travel arrangements, sending ahead boxes of books, making plans to see friends and, most importantly, contemplating what it means to be a writer in “Trump’s America.”

This year, in addition to looking forward to the book fair, after-hours parties, and copping a frenetic high from mixing adrenaline with too much alcohol and too little sleep, some conference-goers are looking forward to converging on Capitol Hill the afternoon of Friday, February 10th to “make a case against the Trump Agenda”(flavorwire.com) while others will be participating in Split this Rock’s  Saturday vigil and speakout on the White House lawn. There is also word of a Cave Canem protest-reading at Howard University and, no doubt,there will be numerous other off-site politically motivated events that are evolving even as I write this post.

It is my hope that these events are heavily promoted and heartily attended and that each receives ample news coverage and sets itself forth as stellar model for a successful, effective demonstrations by which others can emulate. Most of all, I hope these events will encourage other groups and individuals to speak out, to become active in whatever capacity makes sense for their circumstances, and that professionals who have the power and ability to make changes in Washington view these gatherings as encouragement for their continued vigilance in the resistance against tyranny. Most of all, I hope that writers and artists around the globe feel bolstered not to “keep their moths shut” as Steve Bannon would admonish, but to respectfully continue doing what they do best, which, of course, is to write on.

 

 

Poetry Month Writing Exercise: Walkabout

There aren’t many people who would argue that walking isn’t good for you, and that certainly holds true for the poet. What better way to clear the cobwebs from the mind and lubricate joints that are aching from too long sitting at the writing desk than to take a stroll around the block or through the park. Make a conscious effort this week  to take a walk, paying close attention to the world around you when you do. Leave pen and paper behind and really, truly use your five senses to take in the environment you encounter. Trust your senses to store your experience to write about when you return home, for nothing triggers memories better than strong sensory associations. No need to limit yourself to walking in your neighborhood, though that can be an adventure if done with an attitude of a foreigner. Consider taking a slightly bigger adventure and try walking a trail in the woods you’ve been thinking about since Autumn and didn’t get around to exploring before winter set in. If you are a fair weather walker, then check the forecast and make a concrete plan to engage with the outdoors on the nicest day this week. Better yet, use April showers as an excuse to don raincoat and goulashes for a child-like stomp in the rain to get in touch with your inner youngster (just let your inner parent keep the inner child from catching cold in the process.) Or perhaps the best way to approach this week’s writing “exercise” is to simply drop what your doing and take that walk right now!

Now Exiting NaNo Land

I am proud to report that I have met the challenge of writing 50,063 words in 30 days and have likewise received a rewarding video clip of all the Office of Letters and Light’s interns and staff congratulating and applauding my efforts. The last couple of days were a little touch- and-go, though, because I was driving back from Albuquerque, New Mexico and hadn’t managed to write a single word while on the road.  This translated as a 5,000 word deficit this morning, but luckily I am a pretty fast typist (even faster when I don’t have to worry about spelling and punctuation) and can amass about 820 words in a fifteen minute word sprint. I finished before 4:00 PM today – after stopping for a long lunch with my aunt and doing a little grocery shopping – some eight hours before the deadline. I’m pretty exhausted now, but have some poems to write if I am going to meet the November Poem a Day challenge. I just  wanted to brag a little and show off my winner’s badge with a timely blog.

A special thanks for all of your unwavering support during this year’s NaNoWriMo insanity.