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  • 5 Tips for Balancing Your Day Job and Your Creative Passions

    It can be difficult to manage a full time job and your creative passions. More times than not, your creative passions end up as casual hobbies because the stress of balancing your day job, a family, etc. takes over. I have compiled a list of five tips to help maintain your creative passions in the midst of all the stresses of life.

    1. Keep Notes 

    Write down of all of your creative ideas as soon as they come to mind. Try carrying a small notepad or keeping a journal on your phone or tablet. This way you can always jot down your ideas no matter where you are.

    2. Pencil It In 

    Make time to write. Schedule in a few hours to sit down and just write. Revisit those notes you have been keeping track of or revisit a piece you have been working on for months. Wake up early on your day off, sit down with a cup of coffee, and just write.

    3. Limit Your Projects 

    By narrowing down your writing projects to one or two pieces, you are more likely to finish them. It can be overwhelming when you have five, six, or even seven projects in progress. When your passion becomes overwhelming it can be difficult to motivate yourself to work on any of the projects.

     4. Share Your Work 

    Let your friends and family know that you are working on something new and share it with them. By creating your own personal audience, you create a demand. When your friends and family know that you are working on something, they will more than likely ask about your projects later. The idea that someone is waiting to see the finished product can be motivating.

    5. Join a Community 

    There are often communities, clubs, and/or forums where you can share your work and read others’ work. This creates another audience that is awaiting the final product along with a community to share ideas and spark creativity.

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    The Farm is Still There

    To kill time during a break at the high school where I teach English (yes, teachers also procrastinate), I decide to watch an online video of Donald Hall being interviewed by poet Elizabeth Spires. Hall’s scruffy presence and magnetic personality immediately draws me in. He begins by reading poems about the passing of renowned poet Jane Kenyon, his wife of many years, who died of leukemia. Then shifting topics, Spires, the interviewer, asks Hall about a poem he wrote for children. Hall says he remembers the poem, but that it wasn’t “successful.” Spires expertly presses the poet on why it wasn’t successful and Hall’s response is that poem didn’t make any money. What a strange concept for today’s hypercompetitive times, I thought. A poet who measures success monetarily? If I did that, I’d have to immediately quit writing poetry or begin a slow spiral toward starvation and madness. But that was just one of the topics that struck me watching this poet-hero of mine.

    The second thing was his response to the compulsory question what is your advice to young poets? Hall says what we’d all expect him to say, that young poets have to learn to revise, revise, revise. Of course, I agree, but I must admit I don’t revise nearly as much as Hall describes in the interview— going through many drafts, seeking the opinions of others on his work, having relied heavily on his spouse’s advice and editorship. Two problems: who has the time to revise this much today and to do this much legwork on a poem? I hold a full time job, I’m raising two small kids, and I am happily married, and the happily part does take work you know. I have no time no patience nor any real reason—existential or otherwise— to sit on a poem for months on end. Add to that, the interminable stretch it takes editors to get back to you (3 Elements exempted) and you could be waiting years before earning even a single publishing credit to your name.

    Even if I felt I had the time or the spiritual patience or whatever, I still believe age-old poetry writing habits are limited in that they have always produced the same type of clean, acceptable, “award winning” poetry. I love Donald Hall, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t want to write like him. I don’t relate to this type of process even if I enjoy the end product. These habits, which Donald Hall enumerates in the video, the same habits most creative writing schools push, are, in my opinion, outdated and outmoded models for poetic creativity in the 21st century. What works for me? What process is more aligned with today’s reality for busy well-rounded poets? I finish a poem in one writing session (an hour or two max), correct it for “errors and inconsistencies,” a tag taught to me by my mentor and professor Gary Snyder at U.C. Davis— I wait a day or two to let the poem breathe a bit or until I have the energy to look up where to send it and off it goes, accompanied by four more siblings, ready to face those anonymous stern-faced critics who stand between them and Mount Parnassus. And I stick to the online magazines. The people who work on these new publications seem to love poetry much more than the well-established print magazines who only care about promoting that one type of allusion-laden, semi-experimental, obscure (in a bad way) poetry we are all overly conditioned to admire so much.

    Too impetuous? Perhaps. Maybe this process only works for me or applies to people of a certain temperament, but you’d be hard pressed to find an American poet who doesn’t live a harried life and who can peaceably afford to wait so long and to mull things over as much as our heroes once did. Do not fret my poetry companions. The farm is still there, you can still write about it, but it’s not the same farm, it’s not the same garden or the same orchard. Blink twice. The farm, the garden, and the orchard are pixelated and you’re too damn tired to wait in line at the post office or to buy the right kind of envelope.

    By Alejandro Escudé, author of “My Earthbound Eye,” published by Sacramento Poetry Center Press. Alejandro has a poem forthcoming in issue three of 3Elements Review entitled “6324 Kejonuma.”

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    Spring Into New Ideas!

    The cold and blustery winter keeps us cooped up in stuffy buildings and puts creativity on the back burner. With spring upon us, it is a perfect time to get your creative juices flowing again! Get outside, open the windows, any way to get some fresh air can be a good jump-start! With fresh air, comes a fresh idea! It is like spring-cleaning for your mind. Let go of all the angst you had this winter and let the fresh air and sunshine bring you new ideas and creative thoughts!

    I like going for a run or walk to clear my head and start my writing process. I love stretching and exercising my body, while stretching and clearing my mind. There is nothing better than running through a familiar place and seeing new things. Exposing yourself to nature and new places has obvious effects on your attitude, which inherently factors in to your creativity. I encourage everyone to spend some time going for a walk or jog somewhere you have never been, or even trying to see something new in a familiar place. This does not have to be far away, just the neighborhood across town or even that park down the street! Just be attentive of your surroundings and let the change of seasons bring new ideas!

    Do you know what other writers use exercise to jumpstart their imaginations?

    Joyce Carol Oates is an avid runner. “I find myself running in a place so intriguing to me, amid houses, or the backs of houses, so mysterious, I’m fated to write about these sights, to bring them to life (as it’s said) in fiction. I’m a writer absolutely mesmerized by places; much of my writing is a way of assuaging homesickness, and the settings my characters inhabit are as crucial to me as the characters themselves. I couldn’t write even a very short story without vividly ‘seeing’ what its characters see.”

    Haruki Murakami runs every day and has even written a book about it. “I try not to think about anything special while running. As a matter of fact, I usually run with my mind empty. However, when I run empty-minded, something naturally and abruptly crawls in sometime. That might become an idea that can help me with my writing.” (Haruki Murakami)

    What propels your writing? Exercise? Meditation? Dreaming?

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