Spending more time alone at home due to sheltering in place (when I’m not working my full-time day job), I’ve spent quite a bit of time on reflection; whether it be about my childhood, my career, my mistakes, my accomplishments, or what offers me the most solace in the midst of a pandemic. I have also spent time reflecting on my life as a writer: considering how my writing has evolved, where I want it to go, and where it is now.
My early memories of poetry include being read nursery rhymes, writing a poem about caribou in the winter around third grade (why caribou? I have no idea), and taking a college English class at age 15 where I learned about Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf for the first time and read books from brilliant writers like Barbara Kingsolver and Gish Jen. Between ages 15 to 17, I was writing regularly and had written an unknown number of poems that typically explored my depression and childhood trauma. I was incredibly shy and rarely shared my poems until I met a local artist who had put out a call for poetry submissions for the Lake County Arts Council’s website. He became one of my first supporters and a mentor of sorts. He started publishing my work regularly on the LCAC website and encouraged me to continue writing.
And this is what I have done. I’ve continued writing year after year, taking some breaks in between when I encountered “writer’s block” or didn’t have the energy to write. But I always come back to it. My writer’s life has mirrored the rest of my life: ups and downs, streams of productivity followed by lulls, people telling me that I’m a great writer and others telling me I am not. There is a sense of resilience and continuity that can be found as a writer if you keep at it and keep working the muscles of memory, of expression. My poetry can be described as lyrical free-verse and it carries my life experiences, my love and respect for nature, my heartaches to name a few. This year I’m mostly working on new poems for my full length manuscript for a book of poems. Some days, especially in the time of COVID-19, I don’t write at all.
This particular time of the coronavirus challenges us to maintain our relationship with our creative lives and it very well could be a time of pause. One may find it hard to write when we’re worried about our health and livelihoods or our families. One of my favorite writers, Nicole Gulotta, recently discussed in her podcast Wild Words how writing is certainly essential but in a way that is different than our basic essential needs. This may very well be a period of time this year where we slow down or even stop writing because we feel exhausted, we don’t have the energy or the motivation, or we just don’t feel like it. All of this is okay and I would even say that it is certainly a part of living a writer’s life.
When I find myself in this kind of headspace, I like to make sure my life is still surrounded by writing even if I am not writing myself. I’ll try to be aware of my comfortable pace of daily doings and writings but not set any firm expectations. I may choose not to write on any given day but I’ll still read the work of some of my favorite poets or new writers I’ve come across. I’ll make note of any ideas or poetic lines that strike me in any given moment and save them to come back to later.
It’s a particularly good time to think about your own writing, where you are in your own writing life, or where you want to be. I’d love to hear from other writers about where you are in your writing life.
I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite poets:
“Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.”