Monthly Archives: August 2012
I realised a couple of days ago that, for the first time, I am blogging and have at least a small handful of people reading my writing who do not actually know me face-to-face. This is of course a good problem to have. But it does leave me feeling like I should impart a bit of my autobiography to aid those who are coming into my my blog and the life it revolves around in media res.
I was born and grew up in Southern Indiana. I have three siblings younger than me who all came in quick succession. I was a bright but awkward child, the latter aided by the fact that my father was an abuser, and abusers use social isolation to hide abuse. Thus, I did not really grow up around any children my own age.
When I turned eight, my mother escaped with us and filed for divorce. After a fiasco of my father having temporary custody during the divorce, my mother won custody. However, owing to the abuse, my mother suffered permanent disabilities. Added to the fact that my father did not payand my mother could not get the courts to get him to do so, I grew up quite poor, in a community with a very sharp class divide. This experience made me very aware of class-consciousness.
Once we escaped my father, I took an interest in going to church, in part because it was one of the things he forbade. I ended up in a congregation in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, and then attended one of their Bible colleges in St. Louis.
During this entire process, I was slowly coming to the realisation that I was “not like other boys”–because I liked other boys. Not knowing what to do, I turned to the authorities in my life–the college authorities–and the short version of the story is that I was required to attend ex-gay “therapy” in order to remain in school. I remained in the “therapy” much longer than I remained in the school, which I had to leave for financial and health reasons.
I relocated to my hometown of, Indiana, and transferred to Indiana University, where I majored in philosophy. This was a misguided choice of major for a few reasons, chief of them being was that I wanted to go into creative writing for at least a chunk of my career. It took me awhile to realise that the Jean-Paul Sartres and Ursula LeGuins are by far the exception in the world of philosophy.
But you don’t make every decision in life. Some decisions get made for you, quite unexpectedly. In May 2004 I received two letters from the. One informed me that I would lose my medical insurance, which I needed for the treatment of disabilities, and the second stated that there would be major cuts to my school funding.
One month later, I boarded a Greyhound for, sight unseen. I only knew two people here, both online–one remains a dear friend. But I had heard great recommendations for the city, and as I researched it, it had everything I was looking for: progressive and gay-friendly (offering me my first realistic chance of coming out), with a large arts community, a stable economy, and good health-care and transit services. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I got a job in customer service at Minnesota Children’s Museum, which I held for four years until the museum was hit in the first wave of recession cuts in November 2008, when I was laid off.
I was adrift for a while after the layoff, and I got really depressed. Changes in student-loan laws opened up the opportunity for me to return to college, which I did in January 2012 at Metropolitan State University, this time majoring in Creative Writing where I belonged.
In the midst of all this was a sea change spiritually. After having to leave the evangelical Church for entertaining the idea of living a celibate but openly gay life (which takes more explaining than this format allows), I ended up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, where I found a safe space to ask the questions innate to my sceptical nature. And those questions led me right out of Christianity. And it was okay. I spent a while with a small Quaker group, and more recently have sporadically attended a Unitarian-Universalist church. I mostly see myself as a pilgrim, always journeying, as one friend put it, “always an emigrant, never an immigrant.” I pick up something valuable wherever I go that I keep.
My day-to-day life now is focussed on school, which I attend year-round. In my free time, I sing with Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and serve on Metropolitan State’s arts-and-literature editorial staff. I half-joke that I am terminally single. I do, however, live with a bicycle named Wilbur.
I changed the theme of my blog so that I could include a page featuring my published work. Check it out!
So, I do not have the promised essay. I already said that it was proving unwieldy. I’m also finding that my writing process is not conducive to a steady blogging habit (never mind that I do not have home internet access.) If I want to post something more than an update, and I want to revise it a few times over to be good enough before I make it available for human consumption, my practise is not amenable to the internet. Of course, one of the great problems with internet culture is that we value speed over accuracy, clarity, or excellence.
I am also discovering other, more disturbing things about my writing. By which I mean that I am finding I really enjoy writing poetry. I call it “disturbing” half-jokingly. Before the summer began, I vowed to never write poetry except under duress (or a professor’s assignment, which can be kind of the same thing.) But I got a hold of a good instructor who overturned the reasons that I didn’t like poetry: that much contemporary was sloppy and vague, where I value rigour, clarity, and accuracy. My misconceptions I blame on high school, the last time I had formal instruction in poetry. But I realise now that a) a high-school teacher is often forced to make compromises in order to make poetry palatable to students who Will Not Like It; b) there is only so much a teacher can teach when confined to teaching a single “unit” on poetry; and c) the average high-schooler is not ready for the more intricate nuances of contemporary poetry.
There is of course a more serious reason why I’m concerned that I am finding my greatest writing faculty to be in poetry. As someone who considers his message more important than the messenger, I worry that I will be expressing that message in the medium that receives the least care or attention in our culture, not to mention the fact that I somehow have to feed myself.
But what can I do? I soldier on. I keep cranking out poetry. And I focus on this semester–I am only a writing undergraduate. I will be taking a class this semester called “1000 Words or Less” for the express purpose of helping me to become a better online writer. The aforementioned essay series will be published here, but on my terms and in my time. It’s the only way I can do a blog.
On Friday I started the first essay in the new series, and by Saturday I discovered a real problem. The first essay is, at about halfway done, 1000 words. To expect myself to write 10,000 words in a weekend is something that would make even the most ardent NaNoWriMo devotée tremble, never mind the fact that I want what I post to be complete, not a first draught. Of course, not all series will involve such long essays, but for the purpose of this series (which I am intentionally not revealing the theme of), they must be long. So, I have to rethink this. Essays will go up, and they will be series. It’s just that I was unreasonable as to what i could produce in a weekend.
I began work on my first series of essays today. It is a series I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but I needed some impetus–as well as time and reflection–to get started. I will be very busy this weekend getting them together (in between some time spent with friends).
I was about to provide a teaser from what I’ve written so far, but I’m not happy with it, at least in terms of extracting something good for a teaser. So you’re all just going to have to wait with bated breath till Monday.
I have often said that one of my weak points is self-promotion. Well, let me fix that here.
My poetry was recently admitted for publication in a new anthology called Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience. This is my first official publishing credit, and I am proud, humbled, and excited, all at once. If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can do so here. The book will be released October 1, 2012, and pre-orders currently include free shipping (through September 30) . Plans are also underway for a Kindle edition. Having read an advance copy, I can attest that I’m in there with some excellent poets.
The reality for writers these days is to maintain a public blog. This runs a bit counter to how I work, but I’m finding it necessary nonetheless. So, then, I need to take this blog phenomenon and make it fit how I work. There are two big things I’ve realised about my writing process lately:
1) I do most of my writing not related to school on weekends
2) I tend to think in fives. I spent most of my growing up with five people in my family (my mother, my two brothers, my sister, and me.) I favour a five-act structure over a three-act in writing. I tend to break up my poems in five sections.
So, you can see that the way I work fits blogging well, if I write five days’ worth of material over the weekend. And what I want to do is write series, five interrelated essays at a time.
I won’t guarantee I will write every week, at least at first. It will be more reasonable to aspire to once I can get home internet access. (I’m having unusual issues getting this set up.) But I already know the first few series I want to write, some of them having sat in my head a long time and must finally come out. The material will be social commentary and memoir, as most of what I write otherwise is poetry and fiction.
So, there. This will not and cannot sit idle anymore.