Here’s One We Haven’t Heard Before

Wait, you couldn’t tell that title is sarcastic?

My latest piece on putting a positive spin on rejection is up at Thrive Global.

I originally wrote it last summer for I Believe in Love, but that site was taken down before it could run, so I dug it out of the archives.

Especially over the past year, I’ve learned to love rejection. As a writer, it forms the scraps we live on until someone feeds us with a “yes”. At one point, I thought about printing out the best of my novel’s rejection letters (trust me, there are a lot) and putting them in a binder for motivation.

You will get turned down and told no and given crappy excuses like band-aids for a choked-up heart (to reference my poem “Consolation”). Whether you’re applying for a job, looking for a date, or submitting the book of your heart to agents and editors, you will open messages that start with Thank you for your application/the chance to review your work/I had fun but I don’t see this going anywhere/Unfortunately we’ve decided to go in a new direction/your work isn’t right for us at this time/not move forward with your candidacy/I was really busy/stressed.

It’s a redirection toward something you can’t yet imagine.

The Anonymity of Travel and Some Writing Thoughts

I’m back!

OK, to be fair, I wasn’t gone for that long, although it feels like I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes between graduation weekend and the day and a half I spent in Washington, DC. I love traveling, even though I don’t do a lot of it, because for however long you’re away, it allows you to shed your familiar life and explore new places.

I flew down to DC to present some research on study strategies at the Association for Psychological Science’s Teaching Institute. I’ve been working on this project since my freshman year of college, so it feels like my baby. I was so excited to get the poster accepted into a national conference and then present it, with the help of my awesome colleagues. What did we conclude, you ask? The short version: students know how they should be studying, but they don’t study that way. If you want to know more, please send me a message – I love talking about this.

I’m always thinking about how to integrate my research background with my writing life, so this project will probably feature in future posts.

I also got to explore the monuments and the Smithsonian Zoo, so the trip was well worth it. While stuck at the airport for an extra hour because my flight home got delayed, I started thinking about all the people around me who were going places I’d never been. How all our lives had converged for a few minutes.

And me? I was just going back to my life.

As a kid on family vacations, I would always take the little notepad from the hotel to write down phrases, sentences, thoughts that I would try to fit into one of my stories. From the backseat I would daydream. This time, I thought about writing during the flight, but I’d rather look out my window than my phone, and I hadn’t even brought my laptop.

I started to beat myself up about not being productive at every possible minute. But then I realized: why should I be disappointed in taking a well-deserved break? I’ve learned previously that making too many goals too broad makes progress a challenge for me. Putting too many items on my to-do list takes all the excitement out of accomplishing even the things I want.

Lately, perhaps I’ve been too focused on cultivating my identity as a writer who writes (as if posting about it on social media counts as words written) to remember that we should only write not because we feel like we have to, not because we want to maintain some image, not even because we feel like it’s the only thing we’re good at (any skill can be learned with enough practice).

The only reason I should be writing is if I feel like I have something to say. And then I should (to reference my favorite Maggie Rogers song) say it.

This Memorial Day weekend is a long weekend for most people, at least here in the United States. As we pause to remember our fallen heroes, let’s also give ourselves permission to take breaks. We’ll all be stronger for it.

Review: Sarah O’Brien’s Dancing on a Dead End Street

This week is a big one for me, as I graduate from college in just two days and was busy preparing and pre-celebrating and trying to process all the changes that are going to happen and accepting that I can’t do anything about them.

But what I can do is read gorgeous poetry, and I had to take the chance when Sarah O’Brien was looking for reviewers for her new chapbook Dancing on a Dead End Street. I’ve long admired the decay, the juxtaposition between contentment and longing, the expansion of a single moment in Sarah’s work for a long time.

The full review is below, but to summarize, I will now be attempting to find the poetry in a brush of a hand and asking myself, “what will you do with all this time?” (from her poem “With All This Time).

Sarah O’Brien’s chapbook is indeed a collection of “strange stories and chipped paint” (“Hometown”), twisted paths, broken dreams, and events watched as though they are not occurring to oneself. Dancing on a Dead End Street opens with “Traveling”, in direct contrast to the sense of furious protest against the entrapment implied by the title. Through the subsequent seventeen poems, O’Brien invites readers into the most intimate, in-between moments filled with characters with warm hands and sparkling eyes who may or may not be sticking around for a while, and this unknown, unknowable quality adds an extra dimension to her words.

            “When I Think I’m Out of Poems” reminds the poet’s fellow writers to find the poetic in the mundane: in this case, a woman needing help fastening a necklace and responding, “It’s a miracle.” Whether or not the woman is ever seen again, we know how she has affected the speaker when they both needed it the most.

            “Love Letter to Late Capitalism” was a personal favorite, as a reminder both of the unfair ways creatives are forced to choose between employment and what brings us happiness, and of our duty to rise above the pressures of modern society to get a real job: “fighting for survival, corrupting/ my soul for a chance to eat./But there are designs behind my eyelids.” O’Brien concludes that there are treasures beyond what money can buy: “You cannot put a price tag on the sky.”

            By the time I reached the end of the chapbook, returning back to “Hometown”, though I got the feeling that the speaker does not feel at home anywhere, I was overwhelmed by the sense that I had just traveled many emotional miles and had yet wound up at the same beginning point, as if walking in a circle with no true beginning and no true end.

What remains with me with as I finish reading this collection is an image I have returned to before and will always be forefront in my mind: that of a woman trying to find her way, trying to hold what feeds her soul and let go what is toxic, filled above all with the beautiful, painful desire to “hold happiness / even if / I am bleeding” (If There is Something to Say, Say It).

Sarah O’Brien has put into words the feelings that we all feel but have no words for. That is the only definition of poetry I can accept. I find myself asking myself, “what will you grow with all this time?” (With All This Time).

5 Ways to Conquer Creative Burnout

In this often lonely creative life, there are periods when I’ve just felt… blah. I don’t feel like doing what I love anymore, or my goals seem impossible. Creative burnout happens to everyone at one point or another along this path.

Like any other affliction, prevention is best, but in the event you do fall victim to this feeling, I thought I would share how I’ve bounced back in the past.

Today I’m excited to be share my guest post over at Well-Storied with some tips for how to deal with burnout when it happens to you. Thanks to Kristen for hosting me!

The Electro-Library

Last week, I recorded a reading of my poem “To the Girl in the Photo Dated May 8, 2018” for the Digital Lab and Stonehill English Department’s Electro-Library Podcast. The episode is the second part of a two-part series on photography.

The poem was a eulogy to a past version of myself, as well as a memorial to one moment captured in a super awkward group picture. Thanks for the inspiration and mem(ori)es, 2018 Sem Squad. 💜

You can also hear some vintage camera ads, a story by Amra Brooks, readings of Vladimir Nabokov and Roland Barthes, Jared Green’s interview with Ethan Canin, and much more! Listen to the episode on your favorite podcast streaming service – iTunes link is here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-electro-library/id1325417643?i=1000437605558