How do you fall in love again?

With your manuscript?

I first wrote this post on June 3, ready to come home from work and dive into another round of revision. But between the car and the house, I received a phone call–the manuscript had been selected as a finalist. Woo-HOO! Someone liked it, so I set aside that revisiting. This week, I got the news: Didn’t win. So, ready with a fresh printout (so many trees, but I read better, more critically on paper), I’m back to this post:

It’s happened again. I’ve decided I need to rewrite my manuscript. I’ve been working on these poems for three and a half years. No, that doesn’t sound like such a long time–but by the end of two years, I thought I had a solid chapbook-length manuscript. A few months later, I thought I’d crafted it into a full-length manuscript. I sent it out to contests, and I moved on. New poems, new projects beckoned (after the initial floundering, the anxiety of not having a focus).

Two or three times since then I’ve reworked the manuscript, most recently right around AWP. (Imagine being asked whether you have a manuscript ready and saying, “No, I’m hating my manuscript right now.”)

This week, I’ve been reading Mark Doty’s The Art of Description. It’s been wonderful, and it’s also made me feel like a hack. It’s made me feel I need a poetry therapist (and instead, here I am online). It’s made me feel like I need to go back and revisit every poem in the manuscript again, maybe take another look at the 22 poems I’ve already pulled out of the manuscript. And it should be exhilarating, but instead it feels daunting.

How do you get back into a project? Or at what point do you let it go?

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2 comments

  1. Jennifer Bullis’s avatar

    I’ve been rooting for your manuscript–I’m sorry to hear it didn’t get chosen! Maybe let the sting wear off before beginning the next round of revising, so you’ll be able to approach it with excitement? (The manuscript must already be in superb shape to have been chosen as a finalist…)

  2. joannie’s avatar

    Thanks, Jennifer. Honestly, I’m disappointed but not terribly so–I had only a 1 in 9 or 10 shot, and I’m grateful that the manuscript made it to the finals.

    I guess I’m trying to connect with who I was/where I was when I started to write the poems in 2010 and who I am/what I’m doing now. Are the poems still relevant? Or what’s missing? What needs to change?

    It could be a fun adventure–if I can find the time, the time, the time (an adventure in itself). I’ve hit a busy patch, so I have to wait at least a few days (sigh) to start.

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