Friday, July 31, 2020

Jeff Parent : Writing Process

  I don’t know if I have a daily writing process, now that I think on it. Well, no, I sort of do, but there’s not a whole lot of consistency, no schedule. At the best of time, I’m a bit all over the map and especially these days as we tangle with the plague. My partner and I made the decision to take our son – he’s five - out of daycare for the rest of the summer. My wife works from home but if she wants to get anything done, it falls to me keep The Lad fed, watered, and entertained. We’re lucky that way; I just wrapped up a two-year MA and with no immediate prospects it made sense I’d be on point until The Lad begins Kindergarten and I will spare any wild descriptions of my anxiety about that.

  But I digress. This is about my writing day. I write poems by the way. That’s probably something I should mention. If you’d told me, what? Ten, twelve years ago when I was middle-manager at mid-tier transportation outfit, and absolutely miserable at it, that I’d be a stay-home dad and some kind of poet with a Masters degree, I’d have laughed you out of the room and slammed the door but isn’t life just a funny old business. So, yes, I write poems. As to why, that’s a whole other mess of complicated words and that’s not what this is. This is about my writing process so as a long-lost friend of mine used to say, “Just @*$! get on with it.”

  Most days, pre-Covid (and doesn’t Covid sound like the name of that weird kid you remember from third grade who used to turn his eyelids inside out?), I would usually plunk myself down at my local library and start scribbling. Nothing specific, usually, just a lot of nonsense writing and every so often stopping to flip through a book or go down some Wikipedia wormhole. After a few hours of this, I’d pack up and go home satisfied but usually frustrated because writers. That was, and still is, the gist of my process save for the part where I would do this almost everyday. Right now, forty-five years old and creaky from trying to keep up the The Lad during a pandemic, I’m tired. A lot tired. Fed up, too; these are trying times where even a quick run to WalMart amplifies my anxiety to air-raid siren levels. Writing, any writing, happens every few weeks for me but certainly not daily, not now.

  And that’s okay. I can’t beat myself up. This is a wild, exhausting thing we’re going through. What gives me some solace in the down moments is a belief that even with my creative output on standby, the mad swirl of my subconscious is still taking it all in, filing things away in preparation for the days I have the time and energy to write. I also have notebooks full of random, seemingly incoherent ideas and turns-of-phrase dashed out in brief, quiet moments, most of it forgotten before the ink dries. It’ll keep, mostly- the tragedy of my penmanship means the occasional casualty- those tangled scrap-yards of material available for parts.

  Nowadays, and for the foreseeable future, I do all my writing at home. I am very lucky to have a room of my own full of books, a cluttered inventory of Hot Wheels cars, knick-knacks, mementos, and a disconnected rotary phone I bought on eBay with hope it might be haunted. My desk is a beat up but surprisingly durable Ikea thing named Matteus that;s usually topped with notebooks, papers, and beat up pencil box I’ve been using since 1988. My laptop is there too.

  I don’t begin writing poems on a screen, they always come about on paper. A weird thing I do when I’m putting down the foundations of is set up two, sometimes three, notebooks in front of me. When a reasonable first draft comes together in one notebook, I copy it over to the second notebook reworking it in the process. I go back and forth between between them until I feel the poem is working and only then do I type it out. It’s utterly inefficient but it works for me.

  That’s about it. As you can probably tell, I am hopelessly disorganized but on any given writing day, that’s generally how it all shapes up. I rarely have steadfast routine mapped out and if I’m being perfectly honest, that was true even before the pandemic. Perhaps come Autumn, between looking for work and freaking out over Covid maybe showing up at the door, eyelids inside out, I’ll get myself sorted, commit to a schedule, shed my erratic tendencies. Probably. Or not. Look, no guarantees is all I can say. The poems will happen regardless.

Jeff Parent is a proud dad, partner, and emerging poet with an MA in Creative Writing from Concordia University. He was runner-up in The Fiddlehead Magazine’s Tell It Slant poetry contest in 2016, and a finalist in the Words(on)Pages Blodwyn Memorial Prize in 2017. Most recently, Jeff was shortlisted for both the Cheltenham Poetry Festival’s Wild Poem Prize and Pulp Literature’s Magpie Award for Poetry. His poems have been published by Montréal Writes, The League of Canadian Poets, and The/tƐmz/Review amongst others. His first chapbook, This Bygone Route, will be published in Fall 2020 by 845 Press. Originally from Montréal, Jeff currently resides in Québec's Eastern Townships.

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