Thursday, January 31, 2019

Caroline Shea : My Writing Day

My writing day and to be honest, my daily life in general, has yet to settle into a definite routine. For most of my life, my schedule has been determined by the academic calendar, my time helpfully parceled out by classes. In a way, being a student means writing is built into your day out of necessity, but it’s not always the writing you feel compelled by or passionate about. Since graduating from the University of Vermont this past spring, I’ve moved Connecticut where I’ve been working remotely as a Poetry Editor for Green Writers Press, a small, women-run press with a focus on publishing sustainably. Having the freedom to set my own schedule is both exciting and daunting. Like anything, I think it’s something you have to practice at and I’m still learning to manage my time accordingly. However, I feel incredibly lucky to be working for a press committed to uplifting a diverse array of voices and to share the (virtual) company of so many talented editors and authors. I’ve heard writers say their editorial or freelance duties become a drain on the energy they have to dedicate to their own writing. While I can see how this dynamic can arise, especially in a world that encourages us to sacrifice our own passions for the sake of some unachievable standard of productivity, so far I’ve found my roles as a writer and an editor complement and supplement each other.
          Most days, after I’ve pep-talked and berated myself into believing I’m a morning person, I make myself tea and sit down to write up a to-do list. I’ve always liked making lists, even as a kid, and the act of committing my goals to paper makes them feel more tangible to me. I’ll write down both tasks I need to accomplish for my current projects at Green Writers Press: copyedits, manuscript evaluations, meetings with authors, and personal goals I want to work on, like submitting writing for publication opportunities and working on my applications for MFA programs. I also like to set aside some time each day to either work on new writing or revise existing work. While much of this time this past fall has been taken up by the grad school application process, I’ve also been working on a manuscript about girlhood, the body, and place. I sent out an earlier version to a few presses, but was inspired to heavily revise after attending the Kenyon Review Writers workshop this summer. Being able to have those intensive, critical discussions of craft that I took for granted while in school helped me return to my work with fresh eyes. Typically, I will work on editing projects in the morning and read and work on my own writing after lunch. This depends on the day, my mood, what phone meetings I have scheduled, what deadlines are coming up, and whether I remember to have lunch, so I’m using the word “typically” very loosely.
          I don’t have a set place where I write, but I finally have room in my new apartment to create a little reading and writing nook, which I’ve always wanted to do. I have a corner of the bedroom picked out and finally ordered a chair the other day. The chair looks like sitting in it will feel like drinking scotch while writing a very important letter at a typewriter. I don’t even like scotch, but I plan to live in that chair unless my cat beats me to it first. I’m still searching for a bookshelf, but my need for shelf space is becoming increasingly more desperate. For now, if I’m working at home, I usually work sitting at the kitchen counter or on the couch with the cat. When I get too stir crazy to sit at home or the cat decides to be an overly helpful co-editor, I go work in a Pain Quotidien that’s about twenty steps from my front door. They have good iced tea and heating that unlike the heating in my apartment, actually works, so I’ve become a regular. I also like to work in a little coffee shop in downtown Stamford called Lorca. I don’t know if the poet serves as a namesake, but I like to think so. Lorca only has a few small single-person booths and tables, so I always feel lucky if I manage to nab a seat. The far wall is brick, painted with a white background and a mural of yellow, black, and blue star-like bursts. The shop specializes in coffee and churros, both of which are excellent, although they have plenty of other offerings, too. I love the warm, cozy environment and the silent solidarity that develops among all the patrons doing work.
          While I’ve enjoyed developing a routine this year and relearning the pleasures and struggles of writing solely because I desire to, I know that the free time I have to devote to my writing currently is a privilege, most likely a temporary one. I don’t know what my writing day this time next year will look like. Whether I’ll have been accepted into a graduate program, whether new opportunities will have arisen, or how I’ll have grown in my role as an editor at Green Writers Press. I think at one time in my life this kind of uncertainty would have caused me an immense amount of anxiety, but I’ve found myself strangely unworried. I know that whatever the trappings of my day look like and whatever other obligations I may have, writing will always be an integral part of my daily life.

Caroline Shea is a writer and poetry editor at Green Writers Press, a small press with a focus on publishing sustainably. Her work has appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Crab Fat Magazine, Poached Hare, and COG Magazine, among others. She was a finalist for the 2018 Brett Elizabeth Jenkins Poetry Prize. She lives in Connecticut. 

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