Monday, May 16, 2016


Wendy Wisner's newest piece for Scary Mommy introduced me to the word chunking:

"The latest theories on time management advise strongly against multitasking—good news for me. The new catchphrase is “chunking,” and it basically means that rather than trying to get everything done at once, you set aside specific chunks of time, and then just work. Do nothing else."

I love this word that describes my approach to accomplishing anything since adding motherhood to the juggling act of cobbling together a full-time job from part-time ones: poet, adjunct, writing teacher and private writing coach. (How's that last sentence for mixed metaphors? That is pretty much what it feels like. Varied, fun and sometimes confusing.)

I live by my calendar program. I input everything, from taking a walk to doing laundry to grading exams to submitting poems to hustling for teaching assignments the following semester. Everything is color coded and in-person appointments are in separate "calendars" shared with my husband, so that we can better coordinate who is picking up our son from daycare and when we might be free for, imagine that!, a date night.

My main time management tip is to literally schedule your writing time and other projects that easily get pushed to the side since the creative projects are (usually) less time sensitive. If you schedule the time to write and accomplish a task, one that you want to do or would rather procrastinate, you will actually show up to do it.

It is like setting a timer: You can focus on anything for a short period of time and then give yourself a break. But first, you have to show up and do the work. And then it will perhaps be done, but at least be started.

What is your best approach to making sure that the balls you are juggling don't hit you in the head on their way down?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

"Getting To Do It"

I often introduce myself as a "poet who teaches creative non-fiction," referring to the undergraduate essay writing courses and memoir writing workshops I teach. When questioned about why I don't teach poetry instead of prose, I joke, "Yeah, I don't get to teach poetry." As if someone were holding me back. 

Someone was holding me back. Me. 

As my fortieth birthday looms closer and closer, I've been trying to nudge my professional life towards poetry. 

Collaborating with the generous owner of The Spa Room, Mary Szegda, I've started to offer monthly generative poetry writing workshops. We had our first class Tuesday evening and it was lovely. We sat in a circle, surrounded by the earthy perfume of healing products, and wrote in response to prompts, poems and sensory objects (chocolate and stones.) Each participant wrote radically different pieces, encouraging us to take more chances in our writing with subsequent prompts. 

DMV area folks: Interested in joining our next generative poetry writing workshop? Register here through The Spa Room (click on June and Special Events to find the listing). 

Here is the full description: 

Writing the Body: Poetry Writing Prompt Workshop 
Tuesday, June 21; 7:30 - 9:00 pm
90.00 minutes
$30.00 each individual session (a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the DC Rape Crisis Center after costs are covered.) 

In this monthly workshop, we will write in response to prompts. The prompts will begin with our bodies (muscles, five senses, physical memories) and may bring us anywhere. As we can slowly stretch our body to allow an opening, we will focus on our physical experiences and related memories in order to understand them better. Writing, which includes naming our experiences, is part of how we understand and navigate our world. Our time together will be spent generating writing in response to prompts. Writers will be invited to read their in-class writing, if they choose to. The focus will be on the creative process (rather than editing and revising the work.) Writers of all levels welcome. Please come with a writing surface (clipboard or book) and paper or charged laptop. You are welcome to register for one or more classes. Each one will be unique and stand on its own. 

Chloe Yelena Miller, author of the chapbook Unrest (Finishing Line Press), teaches writing workshops at Politics and Prose Bookstore and privately. She also teaches college-level classes online at the University of Maryland and Fairleigh Dickinson University. She received her BA in Italian language and literature from Smith College and an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. You can read more about her here: 

Class limited to 8 students 

The Spa Room 
4115 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 102, Washington DC, 20016 

Future class dates: 
Tuesday, July 5; 7:30 - 9:00 pm
Tuesday, August 16; 7:30 - 9:00 pm

Monday, May 9, 2016

Parenting & Writing Better By Leaving (for the weekend)

Two dear college friends and I have arranged annual reunions the last two years. I hope that this stays a habit.

Taking a periodic break makes me a better parent, partner, writer and teacher. It had been an entire year since I had spent a night away from my son. 

Let me repeat that: It had been an entire year since I had spent a night away from my son. Yes, I missed him terribly - it was a physical ache, especially in the mornings - but it is necessary to give ourselves breaks. 

The break from our regularly scheduled lives is a chance to both be together and be separate from everything else. We don't live close enough to stop by for a cup of coffee and this long weekend together is our chance to be together, side by side, and share a bottle (or two) of wine. It is rejuvenating. 

This break wasn't about time away to write or read or accomplish anything other than seeing friends. It was about time away to just be ourselves and reconnect. 

Give yourself a break when you can, be it for an afternoon walk or a weekend away with friends. Honor all parts of yourself. If you don't, how can you focus to write?