Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Carrie Hunter : My Typical Writing Day

My typical writing day changes from project to project, and maybe from life phase to other life phase. When I had the terrible customer service job and was so busy I couldn’t even write at work, I came up with an idea to write one line an hour on the hour, as that couldn’t take up much more than 10 seconds, and would spend the hour thinking of a line. It was busy, mindless work kind of job. This resulted in a nice collage effect that I liked, eventually this was my Dusie chapbook The Unicorns. Another device I developed during that time of not having time was writing on my lunch break. At this time, I was trying to do “translations,” not from one language to another language, but reading philosophy and “translating” it into something concrete and specific. This became my first book from Black Radish Books, The Incompossible. A little later, I was having to take a 50-minute train ride commute, at the same job, but a different city, and would read most of the way, until the last few stops, particularly between Castro Valley and West Dublin, which was a 10 minute long stretch. I’d then write a poem, and would incorporate something I liked from what I’d been reading that day as the title. This became the chapbook, Angel, Unincorporated, with Lew Gallery editions.

Then I quit the terrible job, and went back to school for an MA in TESOL (Teaching ESL). During this time, I managed to keep writing here and there, making poems out of class notes from Linguistics classes, Mandarin class, and teaching pedagogy classes. Then because I was in the library so much, I started checking out art books with an idea to write art poems. I mixed the art poems together with lines from class notes and scribbles, and this became Linguascapes, published online by the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange at SFSU’s Poetry Center.

I’m not quite to my point, but I almost am.

After a particularly sad breakup with a poet, and after poetry world scandals and outing abusers and the reading scene kind of closing down a little bit, and after I started teaching at my first community college job after graduating from the program, I became very depressed. If depression means something is pressing you down so something else can come about, I had to be pressed down for a while to become something else. I wasn’t sure what I was to become, but part of that evolution was having a career for the first time, and a career that takes up a huge amount of my mental energy. Because I was so busy learning how to lesson plan and trying to improve my teaching, I didn’t have time to write, and so I partially closed down my creative juices in order to focus on teaching. I also found that lesson planning was itself using so much creative energy that it kind of took over all of my free time. So I lost my writing for a time. During that time, I was on this antidepressant Lexapro, which makes you drink a lot of wine in bed while watching dumb Netflix shows (I couldn’t manage to go out much at all during this time). I started writing TV poems, using lines from the dumb Netflix shows mixed together with a little bit of slow journaling mixed in. These poems became <series out of sequence> put out by rob mclennan’s above/ground press. Then I started therapy and slowly my writing has come back, but I have to tone down the huge writing project concepts I used to have, because teaching just doesn’t allow for that.

Last fall, I started having heart palpitations every time I read the news in the morning, so I started just listening to music in the mornings and writing to it. This was the first semester I taught across two different community colleges and it was a full-time load equivalent, so I really didn’t have a lot of time, but on T/TH I didn’t teach until evenings, so I started doing this in the mornings on those days. I’ve done a lot of writing project using music, A Musics (Aarow as Arrow), parts of Orphan Machines, and some other unpublished projects that never cohered, so it has been nice to come back to it.

I think like most people writing for this prompt, there is no typical writing day, the problem is more about how to fit writing into our busy lives. I find it hard to imagine spending a whole day writing, but have occasionally loved going café hopping, reading and writing throughout the day if I (rarely) have nothing else to do. It's been a while since I've done this, but back when I worked in customer service and had entire weekends free, I'd sometimes spend a whole weekend morning reading various things and scribbling in a notebook, while later after lunch going somewhere else and working on writing projects. This is a great day, but rarely do I have the time, and haven’t done this since I had the terrible cubicle job, which was indeed terrible, but my free time was my free time.

Carrie Hunter received her MFA/MA in the Poetics program at New College of California, edits the chapbook press, ypolita press, and is on the editorial board of Black Radish Books. Her chapbook <series out of sequence> recently came out with above/ground press, her first full-length collection, The Incompossible, was published in 2011 by Black Radish Books, and her second, Orphan Machines, came out in 2015. She lives in San Francisco and teaches ESL.

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