Ahhh… summer! My favorite time of the year where writing feels more luxury than the impossible endeavor. But all teachers know all glorious summers must come to an end.
We slowly put our notebooks down and hit the ground running with syllabus development, book orders, and brainstorming innovative ideas for the classroom.
However, there’s hope my fellow writers: poet, fiction, nonfiction writers alike! We’re excited to share some words of wisdom from the multi-talented published author, Professor Chris Baron. Chris offers a few of his own Rules & Rituals for motivation and balance between writing and teaching. Check out what he’s got to say below!
I consider myself fortunate to be a full-time educator. I really love it. But my MFA heart couldn’t just give up writing. For the first years of teaching I wrote when I could, late at night, early morning, or between classes. One year, I bought a San Diego Zoo pass and sat in Tiger River with my journal stretched out with a giant bag of kettle corn. Most days I wrote very little. Still, I fumbled around blissfully; I submitted poems to journals, read at open mics, even got some publications. I scraped up what I could, polished it, and sent it out into the world when I thought something might need to be out there.
Insert family, kids, and a whole new level of joy and distraction.
Writing was squeezed out more and more. So one day I decided to do what all the books on writing say to do. “Write every day.” I just made a decision to make the room in my life no matter what it takes. It’s not glamorous or even fun all the time, but the more I did this, the more I developed rituals that helped me focus on writing even in the most challenging times. I have to say that it helps that I am married to an amazing writer, Ella deCastro Baron, who is such a constant source of inspiration, practical work ethic, and an amazing critique- partner who doesn’t hold back. We do what we can to make the time work.
Some Rules & Rituals (at least for me):
Inspiration isn’t coming: (well, sometimes), but at least for me it doesn’t show up at a certain time of day (if at all). I try to treat it like a job—one that I love. This really helps to give me the freedom I need. When inspiration does come—it’s magical, and I try to honor it. Also I try to constantly brainstorm and draft core themes that I am passionate about—from revolution to the natural world—always asking myself—what are the deep wells I can draw from when I sit down to write even if I don’t “feel it” in the moment.
Don’t wait. Do it when you can: Sometimes I sit with my kids, books and paper spread across the kitchen table. I love to draw maps and comic strips or even paint—all of it counts. Sometimes I spit poems into the Dragon dictation app on my phone while I am driving. Sometimes I stay up way too late, or I get up too early, or I scribble notes on papers I will never find again I (don’t recommend that last one).
Find Core Writing Times: My core writing usually happens at night when the kids are asleep, and the house is peaceful. Even at the end of my own energy, I write what I can. The core writing time becomes a core ritual.
Don’t’ Forget The Job! Work at the stack day by day: I love my job, but if I have a mountain range of comp papers to get through, I grade ten a day every day. This is better than just staring at the mountain. After I grade the ten papers, I write with a free mind. It has taken me awhile to get to this. I had to repeat the ritual until it made sense to my spirit.
External Motivation: I usually try to make some goals to help stay motivated and foster excellence: Submit to these three journals, go to this writing conference, apply for that residency, write an essay for this magazine, and finally finish edits for my agent. I keep these goals in plain sight to remind me that 1) I am a writer 2) there is value in this difficult process 3) there are tangible actions I can take, RIGHT NOW. 4) I am writing to put something out into the world (at some point and with fear and trembling). This last one helps me stay focused on making the work the best it can be at all stages.
Community: For me, I need a writing family—other writers who know me and my work who I can connect with as much as possible and just be myself. These people are my people. They are the people who know me better than I know myself. This doesn’t always happen instantly, so when you find writers you connect with—it’s worth the investment!
Oh—and I can’t forget, pray, exercise, bourbon, and a million other things that shape all the right rituals. It’s never less hard for me. But at least it’s more fun.
Chris Baron is a poet and middle grade author of WEIGHT (Working Title) a novel in verse coming in
Spring 19 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. Chris is rep’d by Rena Rossner at the Deborah Harris Literary Agency. He has published numerous poems and articles in magazines, journals, performed on radio programs, and lots of panel/conference/reading type of stuff. Born and raised in NYC, Baron completed his MFA in Poetry at SDSU. His first book of poetry, Under the Broom Tree, part of Lantern Tree: Four Books of Poems, was released in 2012 on CityWorks Press and won the San Diego Book Award for best poetry anthology. He is professor of English at San Diego City College and the director of the writing center.
- website: http://chris-baron.com/
- Twitter: @baronchrisbaron
- Instagram : instagram.com/christhebearbaron/