I was having a conversation with my brother a few weeks ago about my inability to write. "Fear and laziness," he began, "are the reasons why people don't do what they love, what they're passionate about." Immediately, I began to ask myself what I was scared of but could not think of any one thing in particular. Was I lazy? Absolutely, but not so much lazy in the sense that I lounge around everyday with no drive to write, no. I let his explanation linger for days and found myself growing increasingly upset, anxious and simply uninterested with writing altogether.
Once the fall semester began three weeks ago, I immersed myself in classes, making the resolution to give this final semester everything I had. Eighteen credit hours is a lot to take on while working part-time, especially with the increasing senioritis gnawing at me day to day.
This past Tuesday I was sitting in my British Literature and Culture class and the guy sitting next to me caught my eye. No, not that way. Our professor was talking about symmetry in Blake's The Chimney Sweeper, from The Songs of Innocence and Experience. I wasn't taking notes, I had read Blake so many times that I was already familiar with his use of symmetry, I found myself bored. I looked around the classroom at the students who were eagerly writing every word...with anticipatory pens.
The guy next to me reached into his backpack and pulled out a small, bounded, black book. As he sifted through the pages I admired how they looked, yellowed, tattered, aged. He scribbled a few lines, none of which I could make out without staring like a stalker, and he closed the book and put it away. I was distracted. What was that book? A mini-journal? A glossary of words he'd appreciated? I kept to myself and went on with my day. A few hours later I realized he was also in my Comparative Black Literature class, my last class of the day. I wondered why I hadn't noticed him before. Class began and I took my seat directly behind him. My friend Jacky struggled to stay awake by my side as my professor began to explain the concept of "double consciousness" by W.E.B. DuBois. He readjusted in front of me, leaning down to reach for his backpack. Again, he pulled out the black book, wrote something down and put it away. Suddenly jealousy came over me. Whatever this book was, a journal, a collection of words, literary facts,--it was important to him. I wish I had kept a book that contained newly learned thoughts, I love looking back on things I had written to evaluate what they mean to me now. I was regretful for the fact that I never thought of writing side notes in my own personal journal.
I got home that night and began reading poetry I had written a couple years ago. I couldn't help but think how elementary I sounded, in my words, thoughts and themes. I read the comments on my poems, the good, the bad, the mediocre. And there it was.
Fellow (poetry) writers can relate with me on this when I say:
- You are your worst critic. And even when it seems like nothing will ever be good enough, the truth of the matter is that your poetry is never finished. And many may argue with me about that, but it's the truth. That's the difficulty with writing poetry, we always want it to be something more, to say something else. I can write something today and love it for what it is today and just as easily hate it tomorrow morning. I have to learn to accept that maybe some poems just need to be put away and not looked at for a while so the growth process can happen and I can look at the poem with fresh eyes.
- Workshop classes can seriously fuck with your ego. As an English major with one concentration in Creative Writing of Poetry, I've taken every poetry-related class offered, including three poetry workshop classes. One day you're being praised as insightful and fresh and the next you're simply an imitation poet. It's hard work to write something new about something old. But you have to take the criticism and keep writing.
- It's so easy to stop writing poetry, so easy to feel uninspired. School. Work. Relationship issues. Excuse 1. Excuse 2. And excuse 3. Poetry is so easy to push aside and save for later. I was always so set in my ways, thinking that I had to be inspired to write. And of course, one has to certainly be inspired to write, but choosing not to be inspired is what made me lazy. I stopped noticing. I simply failed to see.