Today’s craft talk newsletter was inspiring. The guest writer waxed on about another writer who wrote with joy for writing and, as it seems, a zest for life itself. Its aim was to remind us that we sometimes have to get away from the notion that writing is grueling work. Let’s be honest, it can be. Why else would I have struggled so much these past few.. years.. with my poetry. It’s because poetry became my job, my purpose and the minute that happened, it began to feel like work.
There’s also something in my head about all the rules that make it feel more like work. All the things you’re supposed to think about, all the questions.
Who are you writing for? Who’s your audience? What is the “so what” factor of the poem? What message does it want to communicate? How does it fit in with a bigger picture of poems that might eventually surround it in a book? Have all the other, more detailed rules been followed?
Like is there too much abstraction and not enough concrete image? How does it sound read aloud ten times? Is the pacing ok? Is there too much rhyme? Is it in the right form? Are the lines too long or short? Are there too many adjectives and adverbs? Is there a more interesting verb or noun that could replace that boring one? Is that line too cliché?
You get my point, it’s a lot. And to be bogged down from the very start with all that, before a single word is typed onto the page? It’s overwhelming. So today the goal is to just write about something else, something fun and quirky and not at all tied to any of the rules. To let all that shit go and just have fun.
A little tangent seems appropriate here.
I mention that the moment this writing thing became my purpose in life is the same moment it became more difficult. There’s something more to that.
I have an image in my head of a girl. She’s laying on a blue floral patterned couch with a white phone receiver cradled to her ear. The spiral cord is draped across her and she’s smiling. She’s wearing a red and white striped shirt and light blue cotton shorts. Her hair is red, in a short bob-like cut and is unnaturally curly, part of it pinned back on the side with a long barrette.
She looks happy. Someone was there with a camera and snapped a candid photo. That’s the only way my flawed brain would remember the details.
I was about 17 when that photo was taken, maybe 18, and I remember I loved that house. The basement was a room I had all to myself when my brother was at college, away from my annoying little sisters and my mom. It had a tiny front porch which I used to drag a folding chair out to on a regular basis to just be outside, and sometimes to write.
I probably penned a hundred journal pages on that concrete porch with its thin iron railing. And I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. The house was also directly across the street from my biggest high school crush, Scott Wheeler.
I’m not exaggerating. I was always Gaga for a lot of boys but I was madly in love with Scott. And also, as is the nature of things, terrified of him too.
He was smart, charismatic, and good looking. As such, he always had a gaggle of girls pining after him. He dated a girl named Jennie for a while and another, Desire, who didn’t care he was taken still shamelessly hung off of him all the time anyway.
When I moved into that house, Desire suddenly wanted to be my friend too. And I was mostly ok with that. Band people always had such great energy. My best friend was in band and I was always jealous of all the fun things they were planning. Not jealous enough to learn to play an instrument though. No. That would have been be actual work which I was very adverse to.
I settled for choir because I enjoyed singing and it didn’t seem like work at all to show up and learn a new song. Plus, Choir people and band people are like cheeseburgers and French fries. They just go together.
We weren’t in that house long. Maybe 18 months. My mom had started dating a different guy as soon as my little sister was born and it wasn’t long before we were moving into his house.
We had lived there the entirety of my senior year though and so there were,no doubt, loads of feels captured in those pages.
Those journals still exist. They are tucked into a box on a shelf in my bedroom closet. So there is evidence of all of this if I ever wanted to revisit it. But that always seems like work too, so why bother.
Anyway, my point is that I wrote a lot and it was all for me and I wasn’t burdened by all the questions about the merits of the writing. It all just flowed out.
That’s the point of today’s exercise. To pick something frollicky and write without a care about it. And (but here’s the catch) maybe some singular sentence will shine like a diamond and lead to something more, or fit in someday in something greater. But what’s the use of writing this way if that big “if” is hovering over me the whole time. I’d like to write without that caveat. And so I am.
I’m channeling the spirit of that 18 year old and I’m going to write what comes to me, without a second thought about it. Like a letter to someone I never intend to send or a thought I would burn as soon as it’s captured on the page. Maybe it’s a secret that’s being held on to like a confession from an agnostic. Maybe it’s a memory from a distant past.. about a girl on the phone.
Maybe it’s none of those things but I won’t know until it tumbles out. I’ve mused a little bit now, it’s time to get to it.
PS. Here’s that photo. I got most of the details correct, but some I got completely wrong. That’s memory for you.