Thoughts: The Poem I Can’t Write

I have been trying to write a particular poem all week. I have wrestled with it, tinkered with it, started and restarted. I have edited, thrown it out, begun again. And a week into it, I have failed utterly.

That’s OK. Writing for me has always been about working stuff out in my head.

One of the formative books in my life is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. In a way it is a book for recovering creatives, creatives that have lost their spark and drive to create. “The Artist’s Way” is a twelve step program to reclaim that creative mojo and the book came to me at a time I desperately needed to reclaim my own. Working through the book diligently worked wonders for me and it is something I go back to all the time, and a book I recommend to others with regularity.

One of the principles of the book is what Cameron calls “morning pages”. Basically they are journal pages.

There is a host of evidence on how journal writing helps us live better lives, sort through problems and issues, and achieve success in everything from life to faith to business. Pretty much every study that has been done speaks to the power of journaling to move us forward. It is a powerful, powerful tool.

Cameron’s take is that the morning pages are a barrier removal tool. In other words, we spill out all the crap in our minds and hearts as we write the pages (she says three pages is the magic number, but I think it can be done in both less and more.). And once the crap is out of the way, we are in a better place to move forward positively. My experience is that she is right. If you look at my own journal pages, you would think me a madman some days, but in person I come across as a pretty calm, almost zen kind of guy. Because I have spewed my crap on my morning pages.

For me, my morning poetry is part of that spewing. I rarely have a plan when I sit down to write poetry. I do something my therapist of a decade and a half ago taught me to do. I just sit and ask myself what I am feeling.

For you, or at least most of you, that’s almost a stupid question. You know what you are feeling every moment of every day. For me, it is not so simple. I process emotions slowly. I could go into all the reasons that might be, but they don’t matter. It’s just a simple fact. So those feelings tend to bunch all up as I go through life, and if I don’t find a way to get them out, to identify them on a regular basis, I tend to get overwhelmed and I am useless to anyone.

So I sit and ask myself what I am thinking. And I write to it. At times, it is clear and at times it is kind of amorphous and the act of writing, just beginning, seem to break stuff loose. An hour or two brings stuff out, and leaves me with a few journal pages, and poems.

The journal pages I keep to myself. (I have no desire to be committed.). The poems you end up reading. It’s not every poet’s process, but it’s mine.

Sometimes, like this week, there is something I can’t quite identify and I try to write to it. Generally, it comes pretty easily. Rarely do I have to sit on something more than a day or so before it spits itself out. Thank you neuroscience.

Yep, neuroscience. You see, we can train our brains to do things. And if you don’t mind pushing past the resistance (Our brains are lazy and hate to change gears) for about 15-20 minutes, it finally gives up and with a shrug and a curse word or two, shifts gears to help us out. And suddenly the task that has been hard, becomes easier.

My brain has learned I am stubborn, I think. I may not know what is on my heart and mind when I sit down to write poetry each morning, but normally, all I have to do is type a single sentence and my brain says “OK, Mr persistent is at it again. let’s get this over with.” and the words come. Tumble out mostly, sometimes faster than I can think. I am often surprised at what spills onto the page.

So this, a whole week of messing with something in the back of my head and trying to get it to come out, is weird. It has something to do with our interior minds and living outside ourselves. It was spawned by a realization of how many pictures I have taken over the years of interiors, vs pictures of the great outdoors.

I love nature. I love the outdoors. The ocean in particular is soothing to my soul and heart. But for some unexplainable reason, it is the interiors of old spaces, everything from historic homes to abandoned factories, that makes me go camera crazy. Where does that come from? What does it mean? What does it mean about me? I figured trying to write about it would spawn a poem that would explain that quirk to myself, dragging you readers along with me.

So much for that idea.

And that is OK. It’s not bogging me down. I have long since passed the point in life where I think I have to understand everything. Enough has happened to me that I know I will never understand. Getting to the place of easier acceptance of what is instead of needing to know the why, or feeling like I somehow should be able to fix things and people took a long time. But I am glad to have gotten here. It is way less stressful, and the older I get, the more I value peace.

I haven’t decided whether I will keep pursuing this poem or not. Maybe a week of not getting there is a sign that either it is not important, or that it is one of those things I am not destined to understand. Or maybe I am just not good enough to find the words to describe the feeling. I have no idea which.

And it doesn’t matter. It’s not like it’s bottling me up. Other stuff has burbled to the top all week. Words have come. Feelings have been released. I have grown. It’s been a good week. I can live with another blemish. At my age, they mean less than they once did.

Be well. Travel wisely,


PS: If I HAD been able to write the poem, today’s picture would have been the picture I would have used. It was this picture that spawned the thoughts in the first place.


  1. Your timely book recommendation is now on my Kindle Fire Audible file. Even before starting the book, it’s al having an effect because after reading your post, this flowed out when I focused on your photo

    Somehow you fell in
    only wings can lift you out
    so you learn to fly

    Thank you my friend, so often your words are the wings that lift us all.

    • It is 20 plus year old, but still I think, the best of breed on the subject. A book you do, not read. I use the path she lays out with the creative coaching clients I work with. It always works. Of course, most things do, when we do the work. Blessings. Fly High.

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