Friday, July 15, 2011

Anxiety of Influence

Joyelle McSweeney wrote a smart piece about influence bringing back the fluidity in the word influence. Influence flows into art and from art it flows back out. There are political and social repercussions to this--both good and bad--the worst being the idea the small fingers of children in China working to make your laptop as a true influx on your writing--the best being the good writing that flows out vibrates at the same frequency as life, Chinese working-children and all.

Since this is apparently my blog about personal dithering and not about small hands of children (unless they're my own children's), I've been thinking about my difficulty with influence--specifically, that I crave it. I go out of my way to look for other peoples' input in ways that might be too extreme. For instance, Zoe's school. Flagstaff has way too many charter schools, making it way too easy to become mired in "what's best for my child" coupled with "the hardest school to get into must be the best for her." I post on Facebook, asking for input. I ask my friends. I ask strangers at the park, "hey, where does your kid go to school." None of this really changes my feelings--that her current school is good and the playground is extra-sweet (which seems the most important elementary school element, from my own experience). And yet, when I turned down one of the charters, thanks to input but also my own instinct, I still wandered the countryside ask, "where does your kid go to school. What do you think of charter schools?" Influence for the sake of influence.
Or, for Zoe's birthday, playset in the backyard or no playset? We don't have a fence. I imagine every kid in the neighborhood falling to their death off the ladder. Lawsuits and broken children. And yet, it's Zoe. It's what she wants. So I go around asking friends with kids, "Do you have a playset? Do you have a fence?" What inevitably happens is that I feel like a jerk not only for not having a playset but also for not having a fence.

Dr. Crazy just wrote a cool blogpost about literary criticism and being daring--writing what you know you should write, not just what people will applaud and praise or give you tenure for. She says her most daring writing has been her blog, where she has written what she wanted to. That is, I imagined, also how she made such a large community of blog readers--by doing what she wanted, not aiming for goals posted by someone or some other entity.
Which leads back to writing and sending my writing to people. Do I really still not know when a piece is finished? Must I send too-early drafts just in an attempt to create that community? I want people to read with me--to read in that way of collaboration and development but this just leads to me asking too many questions for what I think I already know is the real answer. I take too many opinions under advisement and then I write toward that goal or some other advice and I end up sending my kid to three different schools and with a fence around a playset that I'm still not sure I should own.

It's one reason it's better to teach writing than to take a workshop. You still get to talk about writing and elicit influence from yourself and your other students but you don't take it home at night and have dreams about strange hands moving your typing around, as you say, "This?" or maybe, "this?" The worst writing is nervous writing. I should save my nerves for Zoe.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Plus

I do not think that I need another internet-distraction device. But Google seems a powerful force to try to stand up to. I don't like confrontation. I prefer to just submit and be assimilated. Hence, my Google Plus enveloping. However, I also find it confusing. I just got a post from Mary Anne within the and am trying to figure out how to post there. Perhaps it's just confusing enough to keep me going.

In other news: Two rejections on the same essay in the same hour. However, one of the rejections wrote, "thank you for sending it. I found the story very moving," which was very sweet but ALSO very confusing. If it moves, publish, no? I guess I should know better, since I send rejections of stuff I like that just aren't right for journals I edit, that it just wasn't right for that magazine. I guess and audience of one editor is still pretty good odds for essays these days.

I also wrote 3 new poems thanks to Brigit Pageen Kelly, by way of Steve Fellner, who reminded me I loved her.

It's been raining here like it's PDX. Very strange. Lovely really. We went down to Sedona for heat and swimming and lovely times and then came back to watch the lightning storm. I like living at 7000 feet elevation. I also like that Sedona is close and Sam is close too.

And, what other news: Oh. The kitchen project starts a week from today. Erik pulled down a wall, scraped ceilings, mudded those ceilings. This week, I have to clean out the cabinets so we can take them down. Contractors arrive on Monday! I'm most excited for the glass-tile backsplash and gigantic farm-style sink but new cabinets and one fewer wall will be fabulous as well.

Max stayed up until 10 last night but then he woke up only once. Perhaps he's just a night owl. I hear him hoo hooing in the other room.

Now, Mary Anne, does this show up on your Google plus?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hello from Domesticity Island

I keep wondering what's going on with this summer and it finally occurred to me--it's been the summer of house. Erik got a new job this month (yay Erik) and also went to Poland with Robin (yay Jewish festival) and also committed to remodeling our kitchen this summer (yay Spearming tile backsplash). Lo though we are paying a very nice contractor to do most of the work, Erik's work ethic required that he at least do all the scraping of ceilings, mudding drywall, painting and tear down (also. Budget helped require this). So Erik has been beyond busy working. Also, this work impacts me and my work since Max has no childcare this summer and Zoe has intermittant camps. This is my doing, I think. I wanted to spend time with the kids after the semester of head-spinning overworkedness. But kids full time plus teaching this summer, for the first time (I'm still recovering and still grading too) plus Brady Udall's visit and the chicken jello party plus, my mom came to town for ten days plus Erik's parents moved here last week. Plus a July 2nd party means I have a pretty clean house (almost. Getting there anyway) and yet have written zippo in over two weeks.

This domesticity has dominated. Mom cleaned out my hallway closet and we started Max's room. After the garage sale, I thought I was done throwing stuff out but then I hit the office. The office is no more. I've never been so happy to have nothing in an entire room. Soon, the bar stools will be there but I want to keep that an open space. Sadly, all open space here seems to become quickly occupied with toys and art projects but that is the name of the no-child-care game, I suppose (and knew, already, but every day, there is toy and art project doing and undoing). Zoe's room we cleaned today. The porches, thanks to my mom's visit, meaning the whole inside of the house was cleaned by noon of the party day, I swept and even against my don't-use-water-unless-you-must beliefs, sprayed down.

This is the first minutes alone in over six weeks. Max is at his grandma's. Zoe is at dance/gymnastics camp. I'm waiting for the JennAire fix it person (for the 2nd time. This summer has been a lot of waiting too--waiting for the window guys to fix the window, waiting for the hutch guy to buy the hutch, waiting for the contractor, waiting for the cabinet guy. Do you know that SubHumAnz song called Reality is Waiting for the Bus? I don't think this is what they meant). Is it possible Fall Semester will be more of a break than summer?

I haven't written as much as I'd hoped this summer but today is the first day of my summer research grant so I should best get on it. Erik and I interview Eric at Page Springs on Monday for our segment on Microclimates. That's part of my writing project for the summer. I would also like to remember how to write poems. I tried. I think I failed. Heck, I'd be happy if I remembered how to write blog posts.

The wind has finally stopped but now the rain has begun so I will be typing inside instead of outside, between domestic chore of laundry folding and toy-picking up and art project doing and undoing.