No, I’m not talking about the weather. Have you ever felt that the well is dry and any amount of pounding will not produce water? The well of creativity that is. For the last month or so, I haven’t written anything new. Sure, I’ve jotted down some lines, written some paragraphs, even madly typed three pages of what could turn into a novel. But, I don’t feel satisfied with any of these pieces, finished or unfinished. I’ve been flat, and my writing is flat.
In my opinion, writing is personal. Even if the subject isn’t personal, the writing is. Human beings have emotions, and I believe it is impossible to separate them from our work. We may not be writing about ourselves, but pieces of us still enter into the work. For example, I have a strong dislike of vegetables. You’d never find one of my characters eating a plate of green beans. My hatred is that intense. I know that this is a silly example, but it’s true. I don’t know that it’s vanity when writers put pieces of ourselves into our work. I just think it’s the subconscious connection between our emotions and our work. It’s a very personal connection.
Lately, there’s been this huge withdraw of emotion from my work. I really can’t say why. Maybe it’s the question of, what’s next for me? It could be the anxiety of starting a new school in the fall. Maybe it’s the constant on-the-go mentality of three exuberant kids under seven. Maybe it’s any and all of these things. Maybe it’s the pressure that I place on myself to be successful instead of writing for the sheer love of it. I think that could be why I chose not to apply to an MFA program when I looked at graduate schools. Sure, they have wonderful results. The problem for me is that they focus too much on getting published, and writing what will sell.
Do I like my work published? Absolutely! I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t. I have two poems coming out in separate journals over the summer: “Curfew” in Yes, Poetry, and “Resurrection” in Adanna Literary Journal. It’s thrilling to see your work in print, or online, especially when someone comments on how much they enjoyed it. But, sometimes I wonder if some of us (I’ve been guilty of this as well) focus too much on what a journal will like or want, versus what we really want, or NEED to say. For me, writing is a need. I have to write, or explode with all of the thoughts, words, and ideas that run through my mind like wild horses in an open field.
So, I’ve decided to forget about what is “literary” or “correct” in my writing. I will write what I want to say, and go from there. I will flood the emotion back into my work, and then revise accordingly. If I come up with something journal-worthy, I will send it out. Otherwise, I will write for the sheer joy of expressing my ideas. I will feel, and feel, and feel some more, until I have to pour those feelings onto the page.
If you disagree, or maybe think writers don’t put emotion into their work, I urge you to listen to Patricia Smith read her poetry sometime, or pick up a work by Tim O’Brien or Sherman Alexie, and then tell me writers don’t feel. In order for the audience to feel any emotion, the writer must first put it there. Keep on writing!