Writing Towards a Culture of Caring

I was in the shower so I could not tell my nose was bleeding
Dripped down my body to the floor right below my feet and
I looked in the mirror at my face, I thought I had a disease
-Jack White, “Missing Pieces”

There are some who frame sleeplessness as edgy or desirable, and this is a temptation that occurs only until one is actually staring at the ceiling at 3:50am with Jack White’s voice blaring through their mind.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy and all (I guess) and an excellent musician; in fact, I’m going to see him perform this May. But I would appreciate not being woken up by his antics, especially because the words and sounds fit together seamlessly to become stuck like gum on the bottom of my shoe. “Missing Pieces” isn’t exactly a bedtime lullaby.

But I can’t blame Jack White for my lack of sleep. I often have dreams with “arguments,” and by this word I mean that I will have to solve some kind of task. Because dreams are oftentimes nonsensical, this task is impossible for me to complete, and I will wake up frustrated, “dazed and confused,” as it were (to continue with the music theme, and maybe I could compare the desire for the elusive woman in Led Zeppelin’s song to my overwhelming desire for the likewise elusive rest).

Last night I had one of these dreams of arguments, where I, as a Creative Writing major, had to singlehandedly work through the logic, i.e. the epistemology and ontology, of poetry, understanding and explaining them for an assignment (I know, it sounds like one of those didn’t-study-woke-up-late-for-the-exam kinds of dreams). But I think it goes deeper than that. To consider questions like these in such depth cuts to the marrow of who I am as a writer and publicly displays my insecurities. Of course, I couldn’t accomplish such an argument, so I woke up disoriented with “Missing Pieces” blaring in my head and had to explain to myself why it’s okay that I couldn’t do it.

I am not making this up. “Missing Pieces.” After a dream about an impossible assignment. *cue face palm* (and by that term I have just aged myself. Ah well.)

But what’s even more fascinating about all of this is that yesterday I was actually confirming in my mind the importance of collaboration and community, and understanding how important these are in every writer’s (and author’s) growth, professionally and personally, for enjoyment purposes and also for mutual caring. Successful authors would not have written the incredible works they did without an editor, a publisher, a workshop, a mentor, a friend, and, more crucially, a family. I’ve been asking questions like “Is it okay to go to office hours just to spend time getting to know my professors?” and “Why don’t creative writing students enjoy each others’ presences outside of class more often?” (These questions expose the sociologist in me.)

Of course, no person can singlehandedly define poetry or writing in general, or examine its core theoretical premises and explain them. This is a semi-developed tradition that requires collaboration. It’s a tradition that’s continuing to develop as we humans write, and write about, our writing. I don’t think that we can know everything, or even close to everything, and I’m comforted by this. But I do think that by caring for each other and prioritizing each others’ needs, we can fill in the gaps here and there where I (or you, or someone else) may have “missing pieces.” I view this as an ongoing way to move towards a culture of caring, a culture shared by those who love words and sounds.

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