I'm trying to generate a new set of paintings and to have the groundwork in place by next week so that they can dry while I'm at AWP16. I've spent a lot of time lately working on freelancing and writing, and just being too tired at the end of the day to make art. (I don't like to paint before dinnertime, because I often make dinner, and my hands get icky with oil paint residue and lye soap).
No more excuses!
I've been focusing recently on the negatives until I took a freelancing class that encouraged us to focus on the positives. I think that I expected to start up a business without (much) suffering, when really I should be celebrating the fact that I have any work in the first place.
Yes, there have been times--a lot of times--when I have been afraid to fail, and that's stopped me from doing anything at all. There have also been periods of inactivity where the length and growing list of "I didn't think of this but I should do it" to-dos has paralyzed me. I still have a long list of tasks. But that list is actually saying something.
It's not saying, as I thought it did, 'here's another line of tasks you must do for free that will never pan out.' It's saying, 'you know what you need to do to grow your business, and you didn't know before.' In short, it's giving work that will someday pay off with clients.
Many freelancers report that the first six months are completely unpaid. I started Sky Tango Freelance in July 2015, so I can report that my first nine months have been unpaid. But compiling the vast amount of skills I learned in my personal annual report has shown me how much of that has been productive time. If it were easy, we wouldn't pay for it. We wouldn't need to pay others for it. And everyone would be doing it.
It's not easy, so getting started puts you ahead of the pack.
Although the first works I wrote as a child were fiction and creative non-fiction, it was poetry that captured me. In the fourth grade, our city shuffled school districts and I ended up at another elementary school--a relief to my parents, who had witnessed my social struggles, but not to me, since I had to start over. I ended up meeting a lifelong friend who just happened to want to write poems together. We lived an artistic life then, exchanging books, collaborating on poems, and even going to a writer's conference at the behest of our teacher.
Throughout high school, I wrote. Though I was working on two novel-length projects at the time, I filled several notebooks with poems of all sorts: experimental freeform, perfectly-metered formal poems, translations, poems that used different languages, poems and translations in a fantasy language I developed for my writing project.
In college, I stopped writing long-form fiction, and my poetry writing also tapered off. I wrote some short stories, but after I applied to a poetry workshop--because yes, you have to apply to take a writing class at Princeton--and got rejected, I thought my poems were derivative, useless. (I took one fiction seminar, in a semester riddled with personal issues, where I was afraid to write in my authentic voice and I had no idea who Chimamanda Adichie was.)
Between 2007 and 2013, I wrote almost no poetry, but I kept coming back to the urge to create. When I enrolled at Goddard, I wanted to work on poetry, but it took a backseat to fiction-writing because that was my chosen genre, and writing a thesis in two years requires concentration. I also happened to work with advisors who were not poets in any way. However, I did write a few poems, and even got published thanks to a spur-of-the-moment Rilke translation and a poetry class I took from UWisc's Writing Center (they're a great resource).
I say this because I've dealt with impostor syndrome, the feeling that you don't really belong and are lying about what you are, in many forms--when I first went to Princeton, when I first went to graduate school, every day as I sit here and pretend to be a writer. But there has never been a genre of work where I feel more like an impostor than poetry.
This is stupid because I have had so much practice as a translator it's mind-numbing, and because I went out of my way at Goddard to study the density and intensity of poetic writing.
Yet, even though I will never claim that poetry is my main genre, it is an annoying habit I can't quit, so I might as well get better at it.