The business of writing (thank you, haiku poet David Lloyd)

As a budding poet many years ago, I kept notebooks of poems that impressed me. I figured the best way to learn what the poets were doing would be to copy the poems by hand into notebooks. I carried the notebooks everywhere. On this day in particular, I was sitting in a field on my college campus. I was sharing a haiku with my friend, Chris.

moonlit sleet
in the holes of my

By David Lloyd

“Do you know that he teaches here?” Chris said.

I had no clue. It was just a poem I loved. It was a total coincidence that the poem's author, David Lloyd, had an office that overlooked the very field we were sitting in.

I met Lloyd and we met for lunch soon after. At one point I gave him some poems I had been working on. He called and we met up again. His poem meant a lot to me and he was impressed with my poems. I was thrilled.

He wanted me to sit in on one of his classes. The class was designed to give writers business tools. Many creative people who developed writing skills seemed to be missing the practical skills that would allow them to capitalize on their abilities, he said.

As a result many writers never got out of the gate when it came to writing careers. Lloyd said he liked the images and conciseness of my poems, and he offered to help make sure that my skills didn't go to waste. I could sit in on his class for free. It was a generous offer.

But, I was young and idealistic. The idea mixing business and poetry seemed wrong to me. I fell prey to the very syndrome he was trying to inoculate me against.

He was right about his fellow artists being irresponsible when it came to business. But it's not just a lack of business acumen that hamstrings artists. It's also a misplaced suspicion, a belief that dabbling in business would taint the wellspring that is responsible fort the art itself.

Lloyd died years ago. My fellow writers can no longer benefit from his insight. It took years for me to see his point, but he did make it. Although it's too late for me to thank him, I wrote this in his honor.

My interactions with Lloyd eventually dwindled down to the red marks he made across my manuscript. But I made the most I could of our conversations through the years. In that way he remained in my mind. Carl Jung said if you trace a coincidence back far enough, you'll find it was inevitable.

I am thankful that I pulled out that poem on that day, and that my friend knew David Lloyd. I am grateful to him for bringing the business side of writing to my attention.

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