When An Unfinished Poem Is Published…?

I have found myself in a bit of a pickle.

I sent the same draft of a poem to two poetry knowledge bases: my poetry workshop and Chrissy Montelli (Geneseo alum, poet, close friend).  See, I was hoping to get Chrissy’s comments before I submitted my poem for workshop, but Chrissy is neck-deep in “thesis land” for her MFA and couldn’t get notes to me in time.  Well, I edited my poem according to her notes and submitted it to MiNT Magazine (the magazine wanted more submissions, so I just sorta went for it).  However, after reading over my classmates’ notes for that same poem, I realize that the poem I submitted to MiNT is definitely not the final version of this poem!

Now, I’m not about to withdraw the poem from MiNT (because it’s not like I can submit the new version now).  However, it reminds me of something that somebody in the English department said (Rachel Hall? Jess Fenn?) about published work, how something can be published and still not be “done.”  Apparently, people change their published writing, and then publish it again!  That’s an option!  It’s so odd to me because I like to complete tasks before I show off my work to anyone, but I guess that’s just not how writing always works…If, by some chance, this poem makes it into MiNT without the edits from my class, I just have to be okay with it being there even though it doesn’t look like the finished product.  I mean, being published is not a bad problem to have, but my rigidity is not gonna take it well.

Have any of you found yourselves in this place?

What Keeps Me Writing? What Keeps You Writing?

People write for a multitude of reasons. From pure joy, to being coerced, to self-help or therapy–there is always an opportunity and reason to keep the pen on the paper. Allow me to share mine.

I write as a sense of reflection. Almost all of my poetry is creative non-fiction, or has derived from a direct experience that I have endured. Yes, my father is an alcoholic. No, I don’t smoke cigarettes–but my close friends are addicted. And so on, and so on. My poetry comes from a very raw source. I cannot just pull a bunny from my hat, there has to be at least some fur there already. 

With this, I write to cope with a lot that I deal with. It is my own therapy, my own metal sanity. And I am sure many of us all write for this reason. When my friends are going through a hard time, I often tell them to make a list of what’s bothering them, or write a ‘dear diary’ sort of journal. They don’t believe me that this technique works, and they often blame my suggestion on the fact that I am an English major. But I’ve been writing like this, and for myself, far before I was an English major…

Writing it all down, or even saying your problems aloud, allows them to lose power over you. The more you say it, and repeat it, and tell your story, the more annoying it becomes to explain. You then condense these feelings into the bare minimum, ‘long story short’ sort of thing–and that’s when you know it begins to lose it’s power over you. An example is when going through a break up, and instantly people ask you what happened. Initially, you want to rant. So, to the first few people, you tell the ENTIRE story–even if it takes you hours. But as people continue to ask, you don’t want to keep explaining the words that literally just take so long to convey. So you cut some parts out, and get down to the nitty-gritty. Finally, people STOP asking, because the basis of your break-up story has spread like wildfire. And if people choose to ask in weeks to come, you go “long story short it didn’t work out.” This is WHEN the words lose power over you. This is why talking and writing actually helps you to get sick of telling the story over and over, quicker.

In addition to the words (and ultimately, actions) that lose power over the speaker, writing it all down takes away a feeling of anxiety. Putting all of your feelings, and words onto a piece of paper condenses it, and almost takes it out of the repeating broken record that keeps replaying it in your head. Stripping this thought of the vulnerability of overthinking, and putting it onto this piece of paper, it blocks it out of your head, but allows you to revisit this place when desired, without it always being in the back of your mind, on repeat.

Overall, I write and constantly advise people to write for these reasons. Writing can take the power away from what’s bothering you, and it condenses it into a little box, that is no longer lingering in your mind. You won’t know unless you try it, but it truly is great therapy. 

From writing for yourself, you begin to write for other people too. As I said in my previous blog post, my article about a break-up really helped so many people I didn’t know by going viral. With this, not only is it therapeutic for yourself, but it could be exactly what someone else needs to hear in that moment.

Lastly, in correlation to my last blog post about English creating a very useful skill set, the therapy writing turns into a beneficial skill set at hand. Bringing everything together, ultimately me writing for myself led to helping others, and then made me a more skilled writer, reader, and communicator. I will never regret my choice to pursue English, and I hope none of you will either.