One of the reasons I started this blog is because I’ve missed writing. I went to college to get a degree in writing, and I haven’t used it at all. In fact, since I’ve graduated from college, I’ve perpetually struggled to get into a good groove of writing and keeping up the habit of writing, and it’s not for lack of desire or passion. I just haven’t had much drive to do so, which has been a constant irritant, especially considering that I had planned on applying to an MFA program when I was in college, but got side-tracked by a series of bad decisions, which I’m sure will come up again in more detail as we continue this journey.
Off and on for the past 13+ years, I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo, and I even “won” twice by writing 50,000 words in 30 days. It was thrilling to see the words flow onto the screen, trying to write as quickly as I could, flying by the seat of my pants and discovering the story as it vomited from my fingers. Yes, vomited. While I can see some pearls of good in what came from these various attempts, overall, I kept getting stuck, and I don’t even remember all of the stories I wrote in my various Na0NoWriMo ventures.
The other downside of NaNoWriMo is that it is such an intense writing experience, trying to get those 1,667 words each and every day to try to keep on pace, that, as soon as November is done, I want to rest, because I’m just exhausted from all the writing. Of course, that means that any semblance of a habit of writing that may have developed in the NaNoWriMo marathon quickly dissipates into non-writing.
The up-side to NaNoWriMo is that there is a set deadline and goal. 50,000 words. 30 days. There is a need to write daily. I am very much a writer that works better with deadlines and restrictions. In fact, I feel like some of my best writing was done in college. Not only that, my two poetry classes, especially the second, forced me to work within a very specific set of guidelines and time frames that only fed the creative spirit within. Learning about forms like sestinas, and the nuances of different types of rhyme, having set timelines, and even our final (which was to write a meaningless poem using 15 words from a given list, in 3 stanzas, 6 lines each, with 6 words in each line, and a certain number of different forms of rhymes) challenged me to think more creatively and drove me to not only write well, but to grow as a writer.
This tendency to thrive under a deadline is precisely why I decided to start this blog, especially after my therapist encouraged me to do more journaling as a part of the process of working through all the junk I need to work through. I have tried journaling for mental health or personal record in the past, and it has always been quickly and easily pushed aside. Since there was no end goal or deadline, writing just to write felt like a luxury that I often didn’t think to budget time for. Everything else always seemed more important, which I realize now was just another sign of the fact that I didn’t think I was worth the time, space, and effort to continue pursuing my passion, especially after all of the poor decisions I had made. So, creating this blog has been a way to set deadlines, to force me to write more often, and to remind myself that I am worth still practicing and prioritizing my passion (oooh, that alliteration just made me smile). Not only that, I need to journal in order to figure out what I want to write about, and the journaling helps to reinforce the work I’m doing in therapy. I need to have a post every Friday (because that’s the arbitrary deadline I’ve set for myself), so I am always conscious of setting aside time to write, though I’m still trying to figure out the best way and time to fit it in to my days.
It feels good to fill pages of empty space with my words again. I’m far from where I was in college, and I still feel like I’ve lost the habit of poetry, but the more I write, the more I work on this blog, and on other writing projects, and the more I read the sort of stuff I’d like to write, the easier it will be. But, for now, I’ll end with a poem from my last poetry class, back when I was a senior in college (I find it hard to believe that this poem is over 15 years old). I always think of this poem fondly because I like how I was able to work with the numerous restrictions to the specific form of a sestina and still create a scene, still play with the words and their meanings.
After Halibut Hole and the Ocean
“Good day out there today,” he says,
as he flicks dried iridescent scales
from his thick, salt-crusted hands,
standing on the sunny, concrete drive
gazing down at all the dead, dying fish
we caught, just laying there. Their mouths
hanging open, choking on the air as my mouth
tries to work, to tell him what I need to say
what he doesn’t want to hear. He grabs a fish
trying to listen as a halibut rests on his scales.
I tell him I want to leave, I want to drive
out of the desert, life in MY hands.
Deaf to my words, he nods, his callused hands
giving me a fillet knife, seeing my mouth
moving, kneeling on the cement drive
now covered in drips of blood. He says
he understands, his desire to do so scaling
the mountain of my words. I slice a fish
belly, imagining that desired hooked fish
of a new life, inches from my hands.
As the thin blade separates flesh from scales,
I taste salty air catching deep in my mouth,
ocean are choking me. Again and again I say
“Can’t grow, can’t breathe, must drive
away from here.” He grunts in reply, “Long drive
to get up there, Seattle, but good fishin’
or so I hear.” How many ways can I say
I need out? I look at his tired, dry hands,
this man who has always lived here, whose mouth
says words I doubt his mind approves. Must I scale
my own mountain? Or can these now white scales,
dead halibut armor encrusted on the oil-stained drive,
substitute for adventure and independence. My mind mouths
at the sky, at freedom, suffocating, like all the dying fish
we now prepare for our food. There is blood on my hands,
mine or not, doesn’t matter. I look at his stubbled face and say,
sighing, desperate, “Dad? What do you say?” He brushes a scale
off the back of his hand, sitting on his heels. “You’ve got the drive
to do it. So go.” He bags the fish, sorrow stowed in his mouth.
What habits are you working on building or strengthening that help you realize your passions?