Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notes on Keeping a Daily Practice

The biggest lesson I think I have learned (and relearned) through my writing practice is: It will come back. I am constantly repeating this mantra to myself the past few days, because I feel lucky whenever it comes back.

Natalie Goldberg has a line in Writing Down the Bones, which I used to share with my students back when I taught College Composition: "There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, that we will ever do it again." I think writers live in this fear that the last good thing we wrote will be the last thing we will ever write. I know this is true for me. Every time I go through a dry patch, and this blog certainly shows that I go through lots of them, I feel like I'll never be able to write again. I'll never have that joy or inspiration in writing poetry again.

When this happens, I flog myself through what my friend Kate and I called in college Writer's Sludge. It's not a block, it's just a moment where everything I write is crap. If I'm writing at all. Towards the end of this winter, it hit me hard. (As I've been writing here ad nauseum.) The sad thing is, each time I go through it, even though I know it is temporary, it bums me out so much.

Luckily, I've been forcing myself through a daily practice. One quatrain (4 lines of ten syllables each) a day. They aren't miraculous, but they are writing. Forty little syllables are a great place to start, because frankly, they aren't initimidating. They're just words strung together, like beads. I write them on the bus on the way to work. Now, to be honest, I only write them on work days in which I take a bus, so I'm averaging four or five a week. But still, it is better than the nothing I had been writing earlier.

I've never been a huge proponent of daily practice, because of the aforementioned Writer's Sludge, but dammit these little forty syllable pieces are working. To make matter even better, I stumbled on a project to do with these little quatrains. Putting these two ideas together, and I'm enjoying writing again. Hallelugiah! I'm thinking of my project when I'm not writing... and not with dread! With actual joy and inspiration.

So now that I'm enjoying writing again (this week) and producing something regularly again (this week), I'm toying with the idea of engaging in National Poetry Writing Month, after reading about it on Poet Mom. Am I a crazy masochist? Will I regret it? Will my writing continue to feel fresh? Probably yes and no to all of the above.

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