Saturday, June 10, 2006

where's the fire?

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." Oscar Wilde
This week, most of my writing attempts have seemed futile. Though I have a little black book filled with fresh chicken scratches in it of bits and pieces, I feel like I've lost that fire in my belly; that urgency to capture a thought. I've also found that my decisiveness and flow that for the most part had propelled me furiously forward all year has left me dangling like a misused participle. Yeah, I think I'm having a week like Oscar Wilde did in that quote.

Insert comma, delete comma. Replace comma, return comma..............why a comma?

Normally when I get like this, I tend to write more by hand. I can't seem to be able to sit still long enough to do that. Also, I know that I need to refresh my idea bank with some reading. But, even my reading spurts have been just that.......spurts. It seems like I havent been able to even begin and finish an article from the New Yorker in one sitting let alone settle myself into novel immersion. It's like my writing brain has taken precedence..........while I'm reading, I'm thinking too much about connecting a new concept, for example with a possible idea for writing. Instead of simply allowing someone else's words to wash over me, I seem to be on alert. And yet............and yet, I'm hardly productive in the writing department either.

Today, I've been picking away AGAIN at a poem that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It's just been in the past year that poetry has somehow resurfaced. What I find about writing poetry personally is that if the word tripping happens, it happens within a short window of opportunity. In fact, the poem I've been dancing with was written for the most part at the side of a backroad while I was supposed to be headed to a client's house for a counselling gig. Instead, I was struck by the view, the light, the time of day, whatever it was and the words came tumbling out of me. However, this time, they tumbled out in disorder. And, I can't find the order. There's something missing. Je ne sais quoi.

Since then, I've carted various versions printed out in order to edit them, in order to re-jig the stanzas. I worked on it on the plane travelling to Toronto a couple of weeks ago. I juggled it sitting in the Montreal airport while waiting for a connection on the way home. I even pulled it out on the subway when I had 15 minutes to fill. It continues to haunt me because I don't know which phrases to move, and which words to trash. This poem has sat on my desk at work, rested on the dining room table at my parents house and in my home. Like a tarted up old doll, it's been around. Unlike previous unfinished attempts I can't seem to let it be just a draft. For some reason, it needs to proceed to fruition before I can comfortably move on.

Yes, I havent felt this stuck in a writing rut since the word tap turned on last summer and it scares me. Where did the fire in my belly go? Will it return? Will I feel that flow again, when the words begin to pour out of me, when time and place disappear only to be replaced by the urgency of capturing a new thought or description? I hope so........... but I know that good writing takes more than just putting in time. It wants your whole attention. It wants the best of you. This is the challenge, because it is such a selfish pursuit. You have to be emotionally connected to the process or it comes out as sounding phoney. Who leads a life where you can give anything your full attention?

This too shall pass? Yes. Will my poem ever feel completed? No. There will bits of it I'll feel satisfied with, and bits that will need a new comma........or not! The key is to just give the darn piece a life preserver, set it afloat and then turn around a walk away. Hmmmmmmm........ it's never easy is it?

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult
than it is for other people."
Thomas Mann
Gee, I couldn't have written that any better.


BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I agree...When we become so consumed and concerned about form rather than substance, we lose our ability to expresss ourselves fully.

Thank you for your insightful comments on my blog! You write so well, and have a good mind.

Ellen said...

Yup, those pesky commas.... to use or not to use, that is the question!
Perhaps that is why I take so long in getting up a post. I'm so busy editing and re-editing, checking for punctuation, then content, then run-on sentences... oh, the list is endless. Thank goodness for the time saving spell-check Gods!

At least the signs of a dedicated writer is one who polishes their work, and keeps it with them through plane fights in order to frame their content to perfection.
You have not lost the fire in your belly... it's just gone on a little hiatus. I know the feeling well.