Sean Hill: Traveling Poet

This month I’ve had four traveling days—one of those
included a 12-hour overnight layover at SeaTac. I’ve been on eight airplanes. This
month I’ve had the good fortune to be a member of two different learning
communities focused on writing. I got to hang out with some pretty cool folks. But
I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. I’ve written some good notes
about ideas for my next project. I’ve gotten down some images and lines. I’ve
written the starts to a couple of poems. But I haven’t written a poem this
month. I’ve been pleasantly occupying my time in other ways. Again, I feel
fortunate that some of that time has been spent in the company of other writers
thinking about writing. But that’s not how I get the writing done. I need to
spend more time doing what I’m doing right now, but doing it with poems.
Over the years I’ve come to know certain things about my
writing process. I know that it varies. I know that I need to print drafts in
order to really see them and mark them up. I know that I need room to pace. I
mean I need to be in a space that has enough room to take five to ten steps
before turning around. Pacing helps me think. Clipboards come in handy with the
pacing and drafting. Taking a walk in the neighborhood with a draft in my back
pocket and a pen in my front helps. Reading helps a lot. I’ve never been big on
“free writing.” I’ve never really been good at writing in times of upheaval. I
usually write when I’m settled in a physically, mentally, and emotionally tranquil
space. Wordworth’s definition of poetry rings true for me: “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful
feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility
I know that I need to spend time sitting or standing at the keyboard recollecting.
I know that the anonymous bustle of a café is also conducive and sometimes
necessary for me to write. I feel writing is a necessity that I haven’t
prioritize enough recently. My goal is to complete a draft of the manuscript
I’ve envisioned by this time next year. I need to plan to make that happen. I
need to give myself the time and space and due dates to achieve that goal.
I’m not a blogger, but I’ve enjoyed this space here—this
writing. Now I need to make some headway on some poems. Before I go, I want to thank
the folks at 49 Writers for inviting me to be guest blogger here. 
Say, if writing feels like a necessity and we should all do
what is it we need to do to make more a part of our lives, what is it that you
do? What works for you all? Do you write everyday at a set time? Do you go to a
particular place? Do you hold yourself accountable for a daily word count? Please
share what works for you.

Sean Hill is the author of Dangerous Goods (Milkweed
Editions, 2014) and
Blood Ties & Brown Liquor
(UGA Press,
2008). His poems have appeared in
Callaloo, Harvard
Review, Poetry, Tin House,
numerous other journals and anthologies.
He’s currently a visiting
professor in the creative writing program at UA-Fairbanks. More information can be found at

2 thoughts on “Sean Hill: Traveling Poet”

  1. I like to edit when I'm feeling ornery. That way it's much easier to not get attached to my words.
    Also, I keep a file called CUTS where I put all the big chunks of darlings that I delete from the manuscript. This way, it's easier to cut knowing that if I second guess myself I can always retrieve those precious words, which I very rarely do.
    Since my muse hardly ever visits anymore I have to rely on sheer resolve. So, when I do sit down to write, I write my a** off without stopping.

  2. There are as many ways to write as there are writers. For me, if I don't schedule writing time, it doesn't happen. So I usually write first thing in the morning, before I get caught up with my to-do list. I do my creative writing in the morning and my business stuff in the afternoon (emails, social media, etc.).

    I have a couple groups of critique partners that give me great feedback, so I often share a chapter at a time once I think I know where the book is going. They help me see what works and what is going off the tracks as I go along. Then I use them again as I revise. For me, it takes a group effort, but I still choose what ends up on the page.

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