Blog: Continuing Education

Yesterday, Chris (husband) and I drove down to Serenbe for a mini sojourn and some Small Business Saturday shopping.

Serenbe is a planned community south of Atlanta’s airport whose philosophies center around sustainability and biophilia, and, to be succinct, it’s a gorgeous country hamlet for the very wealthy that gives me both great pleasure and great anxiety (but seriously, it’s a nice place to catch a play, eat a good meal, and visit a truly delightful indie bookstore).

Part of the Serenbe experience is that you’ll encounter nature in some form, often horses grazing near a fence or a smattering of farm animals in the pet zoo near the inn. Or even the friendly dogs lounging on the front porches of the designer homes.

Yesterday, what really got me was the snail we chanced upon. Like, I was really excited to see this snail. I panicked about someone stepping on it, so I carefully plucked it from the sidewalk to some nearby pine straw (promptly worrying that it would certainly die anyway - isn’t touching anything in nature The Worst Thing You Can Do??). On our walk back to the car, we found it just where we’d left it, it’s eye-tentacles calmly grazing the air.

I’m sheepish to admit that, later, when I was scrolling back through the pictures I had taken that afternoon, the one of the snail seemed laden with metaphor:

snail.JPG

What progress looks like.

I gave myself the rest of 2018 as a deadline for getting my ~manuscript~ ready for 2019 submissions. I’m certain it’s going to take actual years for something to happen, but the milestone feels weighty nonetheless. And unfamiliar. After months and months (and years?) of working on individual poems and batches of pieces for journal submissions, plus a chapbook project or two in the mix, thinking on the scale of a whole book has been an intimidating stumble into a dark room.

But: snail progress.

If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that the longer I do this, the less certain I feel about anything other than how little I truly know. Yet, that’s what feels truer than any maxims-from-past-professors I could spout off.

There’s something nice and clean about packaging up all these poems into a discrete entity. The concerns of those poems are from such a specific time in my life, a time I feel very detached from now. I felt so sure of my work - how I made it, and why. My writing life now feels much more volatile, more tenuous, more conditional. While most of the time that a) sucks and b) spawns an identity crisis about 8 times a year, I’m trying to focus more on my curiosity about how my writing life will evolve: my next project, my next creative preoccupation.

What are my obsessions now? What does my work sound like? What will I cast off and what will I keep in my practice?

No certainty. But plodding forward nonetheless.

Paige Sullivan