And these are the breaks…

Time’s Up
Originally uploaded by lautreamax

My father hands me back some pretty good feedback on a six-part poem I’ve sent his way. He says, “Es tiempo de parar soñando y comenzar trabajando.” Palabra, pops.

All this to ponder how long is it going to take me to become real good at poetry. Not, a lil good. Not, that was one nice poem. Not, do you do spoken word? Not, hey can ya make it rhyme for the kids? Not, be sure to get angry and make a point. No, I’m talking really good.

A few months back Claire Light posted on the “10,000 hours” theory. In short, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice in order to master an art. This also came up at VONA with instructor Steven Barnes, another advocate of the 10,000 hours theory. Barnes was so gung-ho on it that he challenged anyone who thought they were good enough to be a writer to lay it all on the line. Write. Every day. Find what makes you hyper-productive: music, tea, exercise, yoga, whatever, and rush right into it. Enter a hyper-productive zone as soon as possible and jam out as much writing as you can in the 30 mins, one hour, two hours that you can.

Something I have not been doing at all much lately or, to get to the nitty gritty, really at all in my writing life.

I realized this over a guys-day-out jaunt to AT&T Park. During the pre-game tailgate party, I meet a friend-of-a-friend and the subject of my writing comes up. To my surprise, dude is seriously interested and starts asking me a ton of questions about my work. “So what’s your daily routine? How exactly do you write poetry?” And this is where I ended up sounding like one of those quasi-mystic, poetry-is-self-expression pendejos I privately rag on. “Well, I just keep an idea in my head, listen to a lot of language, read what I can, and when the time’s right; I put it down on paper.”

Ok, so three-quarters of that is pretty sound but the last part makes me sound like I should be an extra in the video for Echo and the Bunnymen’s “Killing Moon.”

Yeah, I’m extra harsh on myself today and, quite frankly, I’m pretty harsh all the time. All I keep thinking is I got to read more poetry, study more theory, read more blogs about writing, contact more folks who know how to writer, connect with more authors, and, oh yeah-when fate comes up against my will, write more poems.

Well, maybe it’s time to change tactics a little and go back to the 10,000 hours theory. I know I already have a jump start on this but I’m going to actually start from today and ask this question on the daily: Have I contributed one solid hour to my writing today?

For today the answer is no. Too much day-job work. (Uhmm, can I say how happy I am to just have a job and how lucky I am to have one that lets me contribute to youth education? Yeah. And it’s not fun all the time but that’s why it’s called work and not What I do for fun and get a paycheck for. Nebulous rant: Done.) Where was I? Yeah, too much day work. Too much social media. And too much blogging. Not that I plan to quit blogging since it’s something I actually enjoy. But blogging doesn’t always contribute to my poetry so less blogging. Maybe more critical write-ups, more process, more I Speak of the City, more rough drafts and more edits.

Well, time’s moving on and I mean to catch up with it.

Or, as my father would say, “Less dreaming, more working.”

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  1. I agree. More critical write-up's, more writing poetry, more process. Absolutely. I am a proponent of full immersion, and surfacing for air when it's time for feedback/criticism. Then immersion again.

    Social networking and other people's drama get distracting – I say this, of course, blogging in five places. Still, it's good to remember that blogging et al are tools and not the object or goal itself.

  2. Yeah, I'm just reminding myself that I do this for me and the poetry that has inspired me along the way. Dat is all.

  3. yo, great post! am totally excited to surface for some fresh air and see you both read on thursday!


  4. Malcolm Gladwell says the same thing about the 10,000 hours. Something to keep in mind, the writing does not always go towards writing. I would say the community building and dialogue you doing goes towards "credit" too! great introspective post on the creative process!

    1. Thanks for the props. I definitely agree that “community building” and “dialogue” count towards the 10,000 hours. I wouldn’t trade the hours I’ve spent after a reading where I’ve had a chance to talk process, talk craft and (on mutliple occasions) talk stink with so many authors.

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