Writing about Things that Don’t Interest Us.

Whenever I’m able to shake off my procrastination and sit down to write a new poem my mind always reels to all the things in life I care about; things I have passion for and stick with me that I just need to spew onto the blank page. My last poem was about music because it consumes most of my time and thought.  So far in this class we’ve seen poems ranging from the subjects of Full House to Horror Video Games and beyond. It isn’t uncommon to latch onto our interests when writing creatively–after all we must write what we know so we can dig deeper into our subjects than perhaps other people are willing or able.

But this somewhat obvious revelation brings me to something kind of strange, so bear with me: What if we wrote about things we don’t really care for? Not even things that we dislike, because dislike lends itself to passion as well, but things to which we are indifferent, things apparently of no consequence–that crumb on the table in front of me, the brave and greedy seagull that walks stealthily beside me, the group of three or four swaying beside one another a few yards ahead. These are mundane things, things we see all the time but rarely analyze–because why would we?

Well, perhaps our passion sometimes gets in the way of our writing. That is to say, if we care about something it becomes easy to write with abstraction because we already know the significance of the thing. So maybe if we tried writing about something we have no passion for we would force ourselves to write with more depth and clarity. And maybe the process of writing will illumine the significance of whatever the topic may be and we suddenly find ourselves interested in that thing. This post runs parallel to Katie W.’s about discovering strange facts and basing a poem on them. Maybe the uninteresting topic can eventually serve as the perfect metaphor for something we do care about.

What do you think? Does this idea completely contradict the purpose of creative writing/Poetry writing? Or could it be a useful challenge to strengthen our writing?

5 Replies to “Writing about Things that Don’t Interest Us.”

  1. I love that idea about writing about the mundane–look at WCW, the master of the mundane. Look at his poem: “This is just to say//I have eaten/the plums/that were in/the icebox//and which/you were probably/saving/for breakfast//Forgive me/they were delicious/so sweet/and so cold” or even XXII (red wheelbarrow) that was in our reader. Both those poems are lovely in their simplicity and casual observation.

    I wonder what would happen if we wrote a poem about the aggressive seagulls/squirrels/stray cats? The long lines at MJ? The way the bell tower sounds? Our walk to class? etc.

  2. I do always find myself gravitating to topics I am most deeply interested in–the broad ones being death, love, loss, afterlife, etc. Mostly what any poet or artist is interested in expressing tangibly. But sometimes I read stuff so out of my comfort zone (like things as simple as mundane activities), and it’s brilliant, and I get mad at myself for not taking a risk at writing about something (or someone) else for a change.

    So why don’t I write about the tension between housemates? Or the strangeness in the concept of neighbors? Or the questions I have about what goes on in small towns? These are things I wonder about but do not choose to spend my energy on writing about. They are all fascinating topics to look into, and I could think of a handful of ideas to discuss poetically just by bringing them up into conversation. But my obsessions possess me instead.

    However, thanks for bringing this up! I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there is a world to explore beyond our obsessions.

  3. I do always find myself gravitating to topics I am most deeply interested in–the broad ones being death, love, loss, afterlife, etc. Mostly what any poet or artist is interested in expressing tangibly. But sometimes I read stuff so out of my comfort zone (like things as simple as mundane activities), and it’s brilliant, and I get mad at myself for not taking a risk at writing about something (or someone) else for a change.

    So why don’t I write about the tension between housemates? Or the strangeness in the concept of neighbors? Or the questions I have about what goes on in small towns? These are things I wonder about but do not choose to spend my energy on writing about. They are all fascinating topics to look into, and I could think of a handful of ideas to discuss poetically just by bringing them up into conversation. But my obsessions possess me instead.

    However, thanks for bringing this up! I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there is a world to explore beyond our obsessions.

    1. I find myself gravitating towards the mundane. I think it’s because my eyesight is pretty bad and sometimes I look at things without my glasses (or really old contacts) that are far away and I try to make sense of them (hence a poem about a wreath at the dentist looking like bones). I think I’m just in a phase of writing about quirky things. I definitely did cover many grandiose topics in the past but it’s really hard for me to sit down and write a love poem. In fact I’ve tried to do that multiple times and closest I came to it was writing one based off of a photograph of a painter at work. Blergh. BUT I need to try to write something outside of my own personal obsessions. Maybe I’ll write about termites or spiders or something.

  4. I have this notebook app on my phone where I jot down random images or thoughts I have during a day, usually to incorporate into a poem at a later time. I’ve never even thought about writing the entire poem about that one thing.
    I know I have a tendency to write about the things that I strongly love or hate, and I do think it could help strengthen our writing to write about the mundane ongoings of life. Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets and does something similar to that, taking small objects and creating an entire poem out of the way that they’re arranged on a table. Since I’ve read your post, I’ve been wondering if I’d even be able to do that; write a poem about innocuous, unimportant things, without somehow bringing it back to my personal obsessions. It’s definitely something I’m going to try!

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