But as I looked around me at my house, and thought about how fun it would be to just putter around, sorting through stuff, making toast, telling myself each morning how I would 'write' and 'grade,' I realized that if, indeed, I did want to work on those manuscripts, I would probably get more serious work done if I left. If I, in fact, retreated.
So I did. I took a room at a local motel and holed up in here like a poetry-writing motel-rat. Here's how it's gone:
- I am considering yet again another title change for my first manuscript. The title, which I have had for the longest, longest time, Hymn, has a religious connotation that I (a) mean, but (b) fear is shaping all my unknown readers' responses in the most simple-minded possible ways. Am I underestimating my readers? The reason this manuscript has not been published is the title, right? That's the only possible explanation. The last time I changed the title of this manuscript, I re-named it something so entirely abstruse that it got me absolutely no traction (again, assuming that it was the title that made the difference). Anyway, right now I am hovering on a title that I like, but am not sure about and I am certainly not going to jinx it by naming it on this blog, except to say that it can signify 'a wavering, unsteady flame' and 'a North American woodpecker.' If you can (a) guess this title, I would (b) be interested in hearing if you think it's any good, especially if you happen to be a person who has read this manuscript on one or another of its iterations.
- I rearranged the poems in this manuscript, creating new sequences and new threads of logic thereby.
- I awoke at 4:30 a.m. with the absolute certainty that that new arrangement was terrible.
- I could not sleep.
- I got up at 5:30 and restored the old arrangement, mostly, with several much subtler changes. Phew.
- About 7:45 a.m., I thought, wow, I am tired because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. all anxious about my manuscript and my terrible revision. Maybe I will close my eyes for a few minutes.
- At noon, I awoke. Talk about your retreats.
- Breakfast at noon. The shame.
- I spent the afternoon going through that manuscript like a monkey grooms its mate.
- It is good. Except I'm not sure about the title.
- Manuscript 2: I have taken out weak poems, substituted more muscular, fresh poems. So far the title stays. I also know that I have plenty more revision and refining to do for this manuscript.
In the morning I will probably go print them both and take another look. Then I will go home and 'grade.'