This morning I wrote two poems.
The first one was so so. A little platitude filled. Good thoughts, mediocrely written. The second one was, I think, pretty good. I posted them both.
I tend to post poems as I write them. I write. Rewrite. Prune. Rework and post. Others perhaps, would let them settle and come back to them. There’s some wisdom in that. But I don’t.
I discovered something today. On days I write two or more poems, the first one is always the weakest. I thought that when I wrote today’s poems, and when I looked back a few weeks, it proved to be mostly true.
“Why is that?” I wondered.
As I thought about it, I thought about my process a little. I am a disciplined writer, in that I sit down nearly every day, at a certain time, and write. I write first in my journal, and secondly, I write poetry or essays for my various blogs.
Most days, it comes pretty easily. Like any skill, when you work at it regularly (and I write for much of my work as well.), you get pretty good at it. My journal writing sort of breaks the logjam loose, and away I go.
Except of course, when I don’t.
Some days I am just flat. I don’t have a lot of emotion going on. I am not struggling with anything. Or I am struggling too much with things. The words have to be chipped out of me like carving marble. Slow and painstakingly.
But I write anyway. And often, it’s not my best work. It feels (to me) like the struggle it took to write it. Technically good. But lacking in passion. Like the difference between an English landscape painting by Robert Gallon…
… And something by Salvadore Dali:
The difference, of course, is that by the time I have plowed through writing the first poem, I am loosened up. I am more tapped in. I have plowed through my own barriers and more open to being open.
“Write what you know.” the old adage goes. The first poem is almost inevitably what I think. The second one is what I feel. What I know. And it’s better.
The trouble is, I never know if a second one will come. Some days, all I get is the thinking poem, all technically correct with good, skilled writing and utterly devoid of life. Maybe I am the only one who sees it, but I suspect you guys notice the difference, despite your kind words on both types of poems.
So I post the first one.
You see, when I was in therapy after my divorce, my therapist told me I needed to write again. I had been a writer for much of my adult life and that had fallen to the wayside in the bustle we call life, and I had paid the price. NOT writing had been one of many factors in my coming undone. (not to mention the divorce itself.).
So she had me write. And she suggested I begin a blog. “Having readers, even half a dozen, will tap into your sense of responsibility and make sure you keep writing.”
She was right.
I began my blog, with no expectations of readers, and just wrote and posted. I still do that. Whether or not you care that I write every day, I like to pretend you do. It does feed that responsible gene (Dang therapists, they keep being right.) and keeps me at it. Good days. Bad days. I write.
And I post.
I don’t bank things towards a flat day or a day when might not want to write. I keep no backlog. This makes me trust the muse, God, inspiration, my own skill, to provide something every day. Manna, I call it, like the biblical bread God provided Moses and the Israelites in the desert.
Trusting that something will come, and then acting on that trust, day after day, generally means it comes. That’s true in poetry, and in life in general. So I trust and I write and somehow it works out.
That’s what I have learned. One of the lessons I have taken from the first half or so of my life. Trust and act, day after day, and things work out. I have given up trying to understand why. I am content with the fact that it does. When I write. And as I live.
Good poems and bad.
Just the act of writing helps me. I am glad when someone says something I have written has touched them or was just what they needed. I love hearing that, in fact. It gives additional purpose to my writing. But I write, ultimately, for myself. For my sanity. You guys get to come along for the ride.
Good poems and bad.
So now you know my process. There’s no grand plan. Heck, there’s no plan at all. I just do it. In the moment, whatever happens that moment. I’ve come to believe that writing, in general, is more powerful when it is less processed, and more real, more in the moment, with the emotions overflowing, our skill barely able to contain it. Raw.
That’s the hard stuff, of course. Most of us don’t like being revealing. I know I don’t. But, it seems to do me good. It seems to do some of you good. So even if it does not always feel good, it seems to be a good thing. And I do it every day. My sanity preserver. One of the things that brought me back from the brink, many years ago.
So there you go. Meanderings of a born again poet.
Have a good weekend. Be well. Travel wisely,