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how does this happen?

June 26, 2009

Very rarely does a day go by that I don’t sit down and write with the hope I may be capturing ideas for potential poems or shaping a first draft of something (be it trash or treasure). I’m fairly secure in my writing practice. In fact, a few people have asked me if I’d been getting back to writing now that some time has passed (though just two months) since my mom died. The question surprises me. My answer seems to surprise them: I never stopped writing. I wrote all throughout her illness up to a few hours before she died. I got going again a few days after.

Still, lapses are not strangers to me. I’m known to get panicky and extremely cranky if a few days in a row (or a week, gasp!) goes by in which I don’t sit down and write. You’ve heard me before: “My poemer is broken,” I grumble. Sometimes, I’m able to pinpoint what’s getting in my way; other times, I’m at a loss.

I never blame it on writers’ block. I don’t believe in that. If you say you have writers’ block, it’s code for “I’m being too judgmental of myself to allow myself to put words on the page.” Natalie Goldberg tells us, “It’s OK to write the worst shit in America.” She’s right. Pen to page. What comes. Anything.

That’s where I’ve been failing lately. I’ve been making rules. Stupid rule #1: You have to have an idea before you sit down to write. Stupid rule #2: If it’s not poem-worthy, don’t bother. For example, free writes, essays, journal entries and notes (such as this blog post not wanting to be about Michael Jackson) are all a waste of time. Stupid rule #3: Do not come to the writing table without your ability to focus.

Since I have had no ideas, no important thoughts and no focus, I’ve been stymied. I did attempt to plow on despite these “rules” weighing heavily on me. Wednesday, I wrote and posted one of those poems (“Tom’s tumor,” over at “i am maureen“) you never plan on touching again. A get-it-out-of-your-system poem. A purging poem. An exorcism.

Something was on my mind and I tried to balk at the “rules” and just go with it. There’s no harm in it (usually), but this week, it made me incredibly unhappy to not have something better to show for some heavy conversations I’d been having, conversations that mirror my own personal quest (self-determination) and my own mother’s illness.

How does this happen? that despite a strong, regular practice I freeze? In my rational mind, I know I don’t get to make pretty poems every day. I’m just dong more stomping around. More purging. If I disregard the Stupid Rules, this kind of stomping around may even count as writing.

  1. June 27, 2009 7:49 am

    I applaud that you can write every day. You do have a lot of discipline. But maybe you’re not supposed to be writing now. Maybe you’re supposed to be working on your manuscript, or something equally as creative.

    I really admire your determination. Don’t worry, the words will come.

  2. June 27, 2009 10:01 am

    Yes. It does. (Write those stupid rules on paper and put a match to them.)

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