Dear Seagoat #10: Don’t Be a Poet, Be a Balls-To-The-Wall Poet!


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Dear Seagoat,

I want to be a poet. I want to teach community college and maybe workshops while living and writing on a farm. But I also need a steady stream of income and enough money to care for my family. It seems more practical to go get my MIT and be a high school teacher who writes on the side. Should i go or the dream for the reality?

–Scorpio Unsure of Direction

Dear SUD,

Dreamy urges versus nuts and bolts. Why, SUD, it seems you’ve stumbled into a classic (and highly American) dilemma!

On the surface, things look simple. A choice of personal values. Do you value security (your family) more, or adventure and personal growth (yourself)? A false dichotomy emerges. Choices take on a moral dimension, begin to tell you what kind of person you are. Are you good and giving but weak? Are you courageous and powerful but selfish? Gender complicates this further. Girl training makes the former seem preferable, boy training, the latter.

And if you’re going down this road, stop STAAAAAAHP! IT IS SO LOADED DOWN WITH CRAPOLA YOU’LL NEVER ESCAPE!!

This classic dilemma—safety vs. fulfillment—hides so many layers of culturally-reinforced fears and prejudices, it’s a black hole. A better place to begin then, is a bit skeptically, asking what lies underneath? What fears? What unexamined beliefs?

Your North Node describes the person you’ve been and the one you’re becoming. With an Aries/Virgo* North Node, you’ve come into this world a quiet, passive dreamer, prone to devote your (formidable and very loving) energy into personal relationships, fantasy, anxiety and escapism. On the other hand, your great and hidden talent is to alchemize that love and spiritual awareness into action, through your physical body, your ability to execute detailed plans and by your innate gift for turning risks into opportunities.

I wonder if there’s some safety to maintaining your dream as a dream. Is it easier to long for a poet’s life than to actually do the work of “becoming” a poet? A good way for an Aries/Virgo North Node person to put their dreams to the test is to identify the goal in concrete terms and to concretely, actively and quickly take the first step.

For example. What “is” a poet? How would you know if you were one? Is a poet someone who writes every day? Who submits her work for publication? Who teaches the writing of poetry, or its study? Who reads one new poet each month? Who takes regular part in writing groups with other poets? Identify the concrete actions you associate with “being” a poet. How will you know when you’ve reached this goal? Fill in the details of your fantasy. Make a list.

That is a good place to start.

And then, the secret? You have to keep going.

Step two is action. Don’t think, just act. Your passive side** wants to stay in dream’s safe cocoon and will use its favorite strategies to keep you there: overthinking, worrying, self-doubt and weighing choices. When you act—just act from your first impulse—your personal SUD power source electrifies you. You’ll know that your new writing group is good, for example, when you leave the gathering energized and inspired to do more.

Step three is keep moving. Once you leave your hypothetical writing group, WRITE. That very afternoon if you feel pumped. When you finish a poem, SEND IT OUT. (You see where I’m going with this?)

You may notice that I’m not answering your question, SUD. The fact is, I refuse to answer your question because it sets my Spidey senses spinning. I do not for a second buy your question. Both options you’ve presented are absolutely practical—and both are absolutely dreamy and unrealistic, until you ground them in a concrete plan that grows out of your desires, passions, interests and skills.

Teaching high school may be more socially encouraged than teaching a private writing workshop or community college composition, but either of the latter may be more financially stable depending on a number of contributing factors. There are many well-endowed poetry MFA programs that would provide you with a nice living stipend, teaching experience and get you out of school debtless. Likewise, teaching in a high school could be either creatively stimulating or stultifying depending on the school and the boundaries you set around overworking yourself.

My point is, the best choice is to act on your dreamy impulses in the small, immediate ways and see which sets you surging with energy. Whichever path that is will be the right direction, offering fulfillment and enough motivation to get you (and those you love) a stable salary.

You’ve got the power, SUD. Now make the world stand up and take notice.

*Aries & 6th house, actually. With the nodes, however, I find sign and house are largely interchangeable.

**12th house/Libra south node. Also Sun and Venus in the 2nd which are not exactly passive but so fearful of change and upheaval as to become immobilized for long stretches of time.

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