A reminder

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I don’t. Really. I thought there might be a point where I’d have a breakthrough and be able to cut through the noise that surrounds my days, but I can’t. I thought that one day I might have a reason for every word and phrase I use, but I don’t. And I thought that I would develop a method, an approach, for writing lovely things. But I don’t have that either.

And (I think) that’s okay. I’m (maybe) not the only one.

Now, methodology, the planning and deliberation that goes into each detail of a poem, the words, sounds, lines, is important. I’m not denying that.

But if I were to start off every poem with an exact plan then I would miss the excitement of discovery, and the thrill of the unexpected–the moments where my tongue continues to trace a melody long after it’s gone, and my mind repeats over and over a phrase of words that are, to me, music. I had more moments like these when I was younger than I do now. I miss them.

That’s basically my greatest difficulty. That I don’t, or won’t, go for anything unsafe. This includes not only failing to write things that are out of my comfort zone, but also refusing to sit and be silent, to read things over and over, to take the time that it takes to let my experiences soak into me and change me. (What if it took too much time? What if I ran out?)

It’s just a little too scary sometimes for my adult brain, taking that much time. I wonder what I’d do with myself. I’d get restless.

I’ve forgotten how to rest.

But good things take time. And if I want to create good things, I need to live slower. Breathe more slowly. Rest in the words that I hear, that are intriguing, or beautiful, or challenging. If I rush past the present moment, I will lose not only it but the future as well. And I will definitely not be able to write with any sort of fortitude.

Slow down, Abby dear…

It’s okay.



5 Replies to “A reminder”

  1. Abby,

    You are most definitely not the only one there. Reading your post was, in some ways, like reading my own thoughts over the last few years. I keep thinking that one day I’ll have it all figured out. I keep hoping I’ll rediscover the passion I had for writing when I was younger, back when it was all I wanted to do. I miss getting so absorbed in my writing that I would lose sleep or forget a meal. I still love it, but it doesn’t excite me quite as it once did. Not always.

    While I’m not afraid to try something new in my writing (in fact, I love it), I don’t put in the effort I want to. I don’t always take the time to really dig into what I’m creating and perfect it. I think what it comes down to is that I struggle with motivation. Instead of fearing I won’t get things done quickly enough, I end up wasting time. This is something I’ve been battling with for years now. If anything, I haven’t given up trying to break free of that.

    This is why I love these workshops. Working with other people helps motivate me, and I’ve never had that kind of opportunity outside the classroom.

    Thanks for posting this little reminder. I think I needed it, and I’m sure there are others who will too.


    1. Of course! Remember to just be gentle and easy on yourself, and don’t beat yourself up. I’ve done that, and it only seems to make things worse for my motivation rather than better. Seeking inspiration from other artists helps a whole lot.

  2. Abby,

    Echoing Emma, I just want to say that you’re not alone in this. You’ve got a good sixteen of us with you and many of us are struggling with similar obstacles.

    When it comes to the approach, I’d suggest that you do whatever you feel the poem needs. Every piece is different.

    Some need to be planned. Some come together over the course of months. Some just. . .happen.

    I absolutely understand the kind of shame and guilt which come from “wasted time;” however, it’s important to remember that this concept of “wasted” time is the product of an industrialist psyche which has taught us to treat time as a measuring stick, a finite resource.

    Writing is often incompatible with this mode of thought.

    Often, with “traditional” work, one can say things like, “In the past hour, I’ve filed six tax returns.” or “Today, I’ve made six sweaters.” As writers, the products of our labor are less visible and more difficult to quantify, identify. Consequently, it’s easy for others —for ourselves even — to call us “unaccomplished” when we leave, yet another, hours long work session with unfinished poems, manuscripts.

    The reality is this: you are anything, but unaccomplished.

    To paraphrase Sarah Braunstein paraphrasing someone else, “All of the planning, the thinking, the rough drafts — these are all like a chicken carcass. No they don’t end up in your final product, but their flavor is everywhere.”

    I believe this wholeheartedly.

    Every final draft is built on the backs of tens and hundreds of failures. Success isn’t as important as the vulnerability, the willingness to try — as cheesy as that sounds.

    And, to loosely paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, “There is no such thing as time wasted, just time spent differently from how you’d expected.”

    All the Best,

    1. Thank you for those insights, Jasmine! I especially like to consider how we do think in terms of an industrial, capitalist mindset and how we view things in a linear way rather than in a human way. I am a person, not a machine, and I am not rational. I require time and rest and self-love and inspiration and food and water and sleep! I am needy, and it’s okay to be needy and to be me. It’s better to try and “fail” then not to try at all (this too sounds cheesy) and I think that failing to act is worse than acting and doing worse than you’d hoped.

      We’re all in this together *cue High School Musical soundtrack*

      1. Absolutely, absolutely.

        Also, don’t worry about sounding “cheesy.” When people say “cheesy,” they often use it as a synonym for emotional or vulnerable. Today’s culture tells us that it isn’t cool to care, that we should defer to apathy. However, we can’t live life to its fullest — or at all — if we spend the majority of it sleepwalking.

        Take care of yourself!


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