The Perils of Creative Expression

I’ve been working on a new poem (goes up tomorrow). I got a draft done pretty quickly, forty-five lines across three pairs of stanzas, lots of nice imagery, all of that in about twenty-five minutes. I had a super clear image, a theme to work with, and a form that rapdily emerged from the way the thing arranged itself in my head. Not my fastest work, but still pretty good for a first draft. I spent another five minutes over the rest of the day reading it and making small adjustments and then sent it off to a reader for a quick review. I was expecting a comment about the end, that it would feel very abrupt or like it shouldn’t have been the end, and that’s the comment I got back. See, I had more I wanted to say, but I couldn’t find a way to say it, so I tried to wrap it up there. After all, not everything needs to go into one poem. But clearly it was missing something, so I decided I’d spend some time today to work on it.

It took me an hour and a half to come up with another pair of stanzas–fifteen lines–that I was happy with. I didn’t work the whole time of course, but I spent an hour and a half switching between it and my phone, or between it and walking around my apartment as I berated myself for ever getting into poetry. I rewrote each of the new stanzas entirely, swapped the core ideas of the stanzas, shifted them back, trashed it all to start over, undeleted it and then finally found a way to get everything to fit in a way that felt satisfying and in-keeping with the other three segments of the poem. Ninety minutes. More time than it takes me to write two average blog posts. I could maybe even have written three in that time if I had the ideas before I started. I filled, drained, and then refilled my water bottle in that time.

Every time I start to feel incredibly confident in my abilities, something like this happens. I start something that should be easy and it turns into a frustrating experience of incapability. Which isn’t to say that I think I’m bad at writing or anything. Everyone struggles at times. I’m just annoyed that this fifteen lines took more than three times as long as the first forty-five lines and I’m not even convinced these new lines are any good. They’re probably not bad, I’m at least confident in that, but I’ve spent so long agnozing over how to get the wording right and how to continue the musicality of the first three segments that I can’t feel anything but frustrated and finished. They could be the best words ever written (they aren’t) and I’d still be too frustrated with them to even consider rereading them tonight.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. As I’ve long stated on this blog, there are many reasons that you might find yourself incapable of writing at a given moment in time, but chalking it up to some inexplicable notion of “writer’s block” means that you’ll never be able to work on addressing whatever very real problems are preventing you from working. I know the reason I struggled as much as I did today is that I’m exhausted and frustrated with some people in my life. The relaxed, peaceful and steady feeling central to the poem is not something I could really get myself into today, since I’ve been trying to deal with my exhaustion and frustration in a healthy manner so I don’t blow up at my friends when something they do all the time annoyed me the most recent time they did it. It took a great deal of work to get my tired mind to focus enough to actually consider the feelings behind this poem, to get my mind back into the moment of the poem so I could carry it forward into another couple stanzas, and that’s not even mentioning that I also had to deal with the complex feeling I had tried to avoid putting into the poem in the first place.

It is entirely reasonable that it took me an hour and a half to do all that. If anything, I should be thankful and proud I was able to do it at all. Maybe once the newest additions have been read and finalized, I’ll be able to feel that. Right now, I just feel frustrated with poetry in general and still somehow excited about whatever poem I’m going to write next. I may be mad about this, but I love writing and being creative too much to let that stop me. I will complain about it on my blog though.

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