Thursday, August 19, 2021

small press writing life : Leah Claire Kaminski

 

A look through my open tabs (a hundred fellowships, submission opportunities, books to read, courses to take, courses to teach) will show you the hope of my writing days—and the stagnancy of those open tabs (often closed en masse, in a panic, when my computer starts to slow) will show you how often that hope remains misaligned with reality. Because for better or worse, my writing days are most often formed in the margins of…the rest of my days (the toddler, the paid non-literary work, the ADHD, the depression, the migraines). So a writing (“writing”) day can look like this:

o   Wake up to toddler screaming his bad dreams in the middle of the night, comfort him in shifts

o   Later (too late), blearily get toddler up, march him to preschool

o   Home for leftover pizza and social media—with work tabs open in the background

o   Continue for several hours in stressed-out ADHD working/not working limbo until mad dash to finish work before husband picks up toddler

o   Prop eyes open for a few hours before bed with phone plus iPad (the better to both read the news and watch Netflix with)

Or this:

o   Attempt early wakeup, manage semi-early wakeup. Cold leftover coffee, couch with laptop, document open, type some pap about feelings with half my brain on the up-too-early toddler’s singing and/or moaning

o   Get toddler up 10 minutes in; attempt to keep writing while toddler jumps on belly

Or this:

o   Wake up with migraine, drink endless coffee before giving up and taking prescription which tires me out, slug through the day until

o   Early evening submit work while sitting on the hard floor outside toddler’s room because he’s suddenly decided he can’t sleep without us in sight

o   Late evening eat leftover pizza and talk to husband worriedly about mysterious new leak soaking bathroom wall

Or this:

o   Wake up early, depressed, cold leftover coffee, couch with laptop, write something okay

o   Toddler whiny and I exasperated until school

o   Spend hours overthinking work, overtired because of waking up too early for writing

o   For lunch leftover pizza, funk

o   Work until eyestrain gives headache

o   Bring toddler home, watch tv until throwing boxed mac and cheese in him

o   Toddler finally asleep, late, because I started bedtime late, because tired/depressed

o   After bed, depressed “relaxation” on couch with snacks/streaming/ice pack, reminders to myself and husband not to get up that early

Or this:

o   Days and days and days of nothing but parenting, migraine, house emergencies, leftover pizza, self-flagellation, social media, migraine

None of this approximates or even gestures towards what I always plan for, which is (still assuming I will have paid work to do for the bulk of the day, because even in my wishful writing life, I’m reasonable):

o   Wake up before first light, coffee pot on a timer, go outside on the porch and write something new. An actual poem with a purpose, or a story, not some nonsense about how I’m feeling

o   Immerse myself for an hour in existing pieces

o   Eat healthy breakfast as family, kiss toddler goodbye (in this fantasy, someone else feeds and drives him to preschool)

o   Work in a focused yet relaxed way

o   With plenty of energy left, eat an energizing lunch while reading a serious book or chatting with husband, then half hour new writing

o   Continue to work cheerfully and efficiently

o   Before toddler arrives home, spend an hour submitting work or reviewing proofs for my many accepted pieces

o   In the early evening, toddler happily asleep and house already clean because in this house in this fantasy we clean as we go, read serious book, watch serious movie, do dreamy and creative tarot spread, and/or delve into longer work

o   serene bedtime at reasonable hour

Some days, adding up to maybe two or three weeks out of a year, writing somehow hangs on as the pulse of the day. Those days, I get a skeleton, a semblance, a hint of the above. But most days—those many adult days that are moved forward by exigency alone—keeping my writing alive relies on bursts of energy, love, luck, insight. Those days, it’s only got to work well enough to keep me hanging on, planning for those rare bright moments when the schedule, my energy, my mental health all align.

The other night? My writing life looked like this (I won’t bore you with the daytime, which was barren of writing):

o   Early “bedtime”, false starts on two stories followed quickly by twitter, news, HBO.

o   Within an hour, scuttle back to crying toddler’s room, sit on rocking chair.

o   Watch projected stars slide over the walls and listen to hum of noise machine until two stories arrive fully formed, borne out of the galaxy-ridden little ship of this room

o   An hour later finally slip out, write stories till too late.

Next day, I had a full-on migraine. Couldn’t do much but eat leftover pizza. But it didn’t matter, and it doesn’t, and won’t: as long as writing visits once in a while, keeps its key, doesn’t need to knock—I can still call it mine.

 

 

 

 

Leah Claire Kaminski is a poet, writer, and editor living in Chicago. She holds degrees in poetry from Harvard University and UC Irvine’s Programs in Writing. Recent work can be seen in Prairie Schooner, Fence, Rhino Poetry, Vinyl, and ZYZZYVA, among others. The chapbook Root is forthcoming from Milk and Cake Press, and Peninsular Scar is available from Dancing Girl Press. Find out more at www.leahkaminski.com

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sofia Fey : My Writing Day 8/12/2021

I thought about rescheduling this. In truth, it’s the most realistic writing day that I could write to you about. One full of high ambition, and the bittersweet reality of being an extroverted Libra who tells everyone they’re free on their day off.

Today was supposed to be the day I spent writing.

I wake up at 8a.m., and text my girlfriend good morning. They call me a few minutes later. It’s one of my favorite things we do— they call me almost every morning and I do my little stretches and make my bed while we talk. We’re long distance, so our morning conversations are sacred to me.

They were visiting last week, and they left one of their film rolls with me so that I could take them and get them developed. At 9:30 a.m. I drive to Samy’s Camera in Fairfax to get them developed. While I hate driving, on my drive, I thought exclusively about the piece of short fiction I am working on today. It’s about a Centaur that was ejected from the ship he was on, and landed on a planet that is out to kill him. The car is a nice place to think. My hands are busy and my mind wanders off.

At 11a.m. I meet with someone who is interested in being the cinematographer for the webseries I wrote with my best friend, Nick. As a screenwriter, poet, and a writer of fiction, I find myself divided on these writing days. But self production is one of the ways potential TV writers get seen, and so when Nick started pushing to get the web series made, I was all in. I didn’t want to have a meeting today, but it was the only day that worked for the cinematographer, and so it had to be today.

At noon, my meeting is over, I have booked the cinematographer, and I write an email to the director, and Nick, to introduce them all to our new crew member. Then I get to work.

When it comes to writing, I usually go where I’m compelled. It’s rare when I don’t finish a project, so this hasn’t created any roadblocks for me, really. So if a short story is where my mind is at today, that’s exactly where I’m going.

At 1p.m. my friend Paige meets me at the same cafe I had the first meeting at. When she reached out to me last week she asked what day I was free this week and I said today, not thinking about how I was free because I had reserved the whole day for writing. But I haven’t seen Paige in weeks, and I miss her, so she meets me at the Republic of Pie, where the baristas have probably noticed I’ve been here now for three hours and had two teas and a latte. Paige and I catch up on our lives and she takes some pictures of me on her film camera. She consistently reminds me how much she admires me, and it’s really sweet. After we part, it’s about 2 p.m. and I drive home.

I jump immediately to my desk and open my short story. I can’t sit still for long, so I write for two hours and then go for a walk. I walk every time I get stuck, and being in LA, the weather is always nice for walking. In Chicago winter, I used to have to just pace around my 400sqft studio apartment. Today it is 90 degrees and so I sweat and have to drink lots of water. I wrote in a poem once: my headphones always make me half-here and not listening and it’s true, but they also enable me to enter the dreamspace in my head. I hardly even look where I’m walking, other than to make sure there isn’t an oncoming car. I put on music that suits whatever I’m writing (right now it’s Bad Bunny and Radiohead) and I walk until it’s time to get back to the page.

My girlfriend is driving to Detroit today for a wedding, and so I told them I wanted to call them to read to them while they drive for a bit. Reading poems and short stories is one of the ways I show love. It’s fun for me. I call them and read them “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, some poems from Aimee Nezhukhamatathil’s Oceanic, Billy Collin’s “Introduction to Poetry”, and Shira Erlichman’s “Mind over Matter” from Odes to Lithium. I read for about forty minutes, and then listen to them while I get back to writing. We hang up so they can stop somewhere for food, and I realize I haven’t really eaten today. I go upstairs for leftovers. I still have the vegan mac I made last week in the fridge, bless up. I’m bad at eating on writing days sometimes. When I wrote my short story collection ring ring, I could hardly pull myself away from my laptop. Every story came out in a fury. Nick had to be like “Hey dude let’s go eat and watch something! You’ve been writing all day!” and I am grateful to him for this, because otherwise, I may not have even noticed I was hungry or thirsty. I’m working on it. I make sure I eat before I sit at my desk now and do my best to notice a grumbling stomach.

Some of my favorite writers say if you’re not living you’re not writing, either. I think this is true, and the balance is hard to find. I will likely spend my life in search of it. I think it is equally as important to go to karaoke on Thursday night with Faria, as it is to write a page today. On the other hand, writing can be a muscle, and with two of my part-time jobs involving writing scripts, I can say there hasn’t been a time I’ve sat down and not been able to write anything in over a year. It’s turned into a very strong muscle. I bet my writing brain could do the pullups I’ve been trying to do physically.

On that note, I took today off exercise-wise as well, but for my practice in writing, it really helps. It gives me more energy for the days I stare at a screen and type all day.

On Tuesdays I work for an app called SnicSnac. It’s an augmented reality filmmaking app, and they pay me to write scripts for them, and sometimes do a little copywriting or social media caption writing. I didn’t get to finish the first draft of the script I have due tomorrow, so at around 6p.m. today I switch to finishing that script.

At 7:15, I’ve finished draft one (I’ll look one more time before I turn it in tomorrow, of course) and I go for a golden hour walk. As I walk I think of one of my best friends, Kristin, who I shared a call with a few days ago. I named a character after her in the other short story I’m working on. I probably won’t have children to name after anyone, but I do love to do this with characters, and I’d like to think it’s a similar sentiment, in a way. I don’t care what people think of my work, aside from a select few. Kristin is definitely one of them, but thankfully, she is as obsessed with my work as I am with hers.

When I get home, I have about ten more minutes before I have to change into my evening outfit. In LA, the evenings are cool enough to wear pants. I am so grateful for this, because I feel so much more myself in pants. I write a few sentences, and say my end of day mantra aloud: I am done working today. As a writer, our work could go on forever. But in an active attempt to spend more time living and less time working, verbalizing the end of my day has helped. After I put my computer to sleep, I go meet my friend Josh at a diner, where we are going to play board games.

I used to really care that I finished something each writing day; but nothing is really ever finished. I don’t force myself to do anything anymore. Except drink water. Not surprisingly, taking the pressure off of what happens when I click some keys or touch ink to a piece of paper makes it easier to write. Whatever you do is writing, and each day, I get better at remembering this.

 

 

Sofia Fey is a Lesbian and Non-Binary writer living in LA. Currently, they are the founder of the Luminaries Poetry workshop, and poetry editor at Hooligan Magazine. They love to be with their friends, but mostly, to beat them at Mario Party. They tweet @sofiafeycreates.