This week was SPRING BREAK! I followed through on all the myths of spring break common to the United States, about warm environments, raucous parties, and altogether wild living. I partied up my spring break by cleaning my apartment, and editing my manuscript.
I know what you’re thinking, “Bethany, this is meant to be a family friendly blog! You can’t share such juicy spring break deets!” Oh, but I will. I’m a writer. I’m committed to telling the truth, or at least, something akin to the truth.
But the truth is that one of the beautiful things about graduate school is being able to work with a school schedule. Yes, there are plenty of times where I have late nights and long days just to get to all the work that I need to do, but the built in lulls and peaks of a semester have their benefits. I have been looking forward to spring break for weeks, not because I was going on some crazy vacation, but because I knew that I would be able to settle in and get some work done on things that I had been pushing off.
Grad school can be stressful, and a lot of times, things that would have been done just by the side can get put off. For example, my apartment. It can be hard to find the time to devote to cleaning a room here or there when I have three books to read for the next day, and papers to grade. But a clean living environment is essential for a healthy mind and a productive lifestyle. And so, I set aside time each day this week. I cleaned and I cleaned. I scrubbed, I swept, I performed cleaning karaoke, I reveled in the scent of cleaners and fresh lavender.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, and my graduation date looming, I needed to spend some time with my dreaded thesis, my manuscript. I’m not good at editing. Usually when I write poems, I get frustrated enough with individual poems and I simply decide that I will write the next one better, rather than sitting with the same poem until I feel as though I’ve perfected it. And while I say all of this, I know that such an attitude is incongruous with a career (or whatever a poet version of a career is) as a poet. I have to try to perfect what I write, even though I do not believe that there is such a thing as a perfect poem. My thesis is the first full length manuscript I have written. Ideally, I can send this out to publishers, they will love it, they’ll give me an enormous book deal, and I’ll have it made. Or at least, people and publishers will be interested enough in the work to support me and publish me, and make it possible for me to grow as a poet, to continue publishing, to grow my reader base.
But I’m not particularly good at editing. It frustrates me. I quickly find that my writing is cluttered, it needs to be cleaned up, it needs to be scrubbed down…by now, do you see the metaphor I’m trying to make? Cleaning. My thesis has to be the cleanest and most refined piece of writing that I’ve ever done. It needs to feel fresh and exciting, it needs to sparkle as much as poetry can. And this is no small task. Each day of this spring break week, I have sat down with 1/7 of my manuscript. I read it aloud, over and over, listening to the music of the language, the structure of the sentence. I listen for the story that I want the manuscript to tell. And then I write it over and over and over again until it cleans itself. This week, I don’t have any other voices in my head besides my own. There are no books to read, no papers to grade—there is simply me, my apartment, and my manuscript.
Hopefully the three of us come out of it a little cleaner.