3 Confessions a Writer Shouldn’t Make

May 23, 2010 § 21 Comments

Since this past poetry month ended, I’ve lost the impulse to write. And my formerly therapist bones have been ruminating about why…and come up with some not-so-writerly correct answers.  So, I confess…

1) I don’t have to write, I choose to write. Now I know this violates all kinds of elitist definitions of “true writers” (and I apologise for those of you who define it that way, but as an chooser, it’s how I feel), but some of us have multiple venues for creative expression and this is only my latest. Will it last? That’s the current question.

2) I write best when I’m emotional. Even before I began writing consistently three years ago, I wrote poems when I was in grief or in love. As a constantly trying-to-be-happy person, my best work bubbled up from broken romance and family angst. Since working on becoming a calm, assertive pack leader for my hyper-excited pup, I’m feeling quite calm. So calm that my muse has vacated – she thrived on angst. (I admit I did have a slight relationship panic attack a week ago, but it’s over now. I’m not perfect.)

3) I’m not sure I want to commit to writing again. (Damn, it’s scary to write this.) What would it mean if I didn’t? That I’m not a “real writer?” That I’m not talented? How would I define myself creatively? Would my creative and literary friends abandon me?

Arggh. I’m having a writer’s midlife crisis. Have you ever had one? How did you resolve it? All creative confessions are welcome!

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§ 21 Responses to 3 Confessions a Writer Shouldn’t Make

  • […] becoming addicted to Cesar Millan’s dog psychology, which led to the loss of my angst.  Angst fueled my writing, so I was struggling to find inspiration. I’ve been lucky enough to find a creativity coach and after going through a number of […]

  • […] is. His techniques have helped me with my dogs tremendously and recently I realized that I am now psychologically calm as I have never been before. Meditation hasn’t worked for me, nor medication, but being […]

  • Laurie says:

    To be honest, your point of view on this kind of reminds me of something called Linehan. (or more accurately, the program designed by Linehan, but anyway.) I got the impression – the former therapist part – that you might have experience with therapy, so I hope this makes sense. Anyway enough rambling… what I was trying to say was that part of what I’ve learned from Linehan/mindfullness is the concept that what we identify ourselves with matters; as long as it’s pain or angst, moving past that becomes hard. Living only with those emotions, which is something I’ve done most of my life…it’s empty. The fact that you don’t feel that way, though you may think you should – that matters. Wanting to have more from writing than a basis in suffering, as she calls it, to me means your writing will get stronger. I hope this made some sort of sense, though. If not..just ignore me?

    • Laurie, I had to look up Linehan, but when I saw DBT, I knew exactly what you meant. You’re right on target – it’s such a strange feeling to not be based in what I have been my whole life. I hope my writing gets stronger, but conceptually I feel lost.

      But since you’re reminded me that I’m a former therapist, I need to remember that this is the bridge from one stage to another. Thank you.

  • S.L. Corsua says:

    I read the comments above, and I agree with Marc Copeland’s, especially the part where he said: “Clearly you’re moving away from angst having a major influence in your life. A good thing in so many ways, but not an easy one when you’re used to that certain stimuli setting you off creatively.”

    When I started writing poetry, I, like you, wrote emotion-laden poems — confessional, first-person, autobiographical. Then I wanted to have variety, but, as in your case, I realized that I couldn’t write a decent poem if I didn’t mine the highs and lows of my personal life for all their worth. It became a habit, and I knew I had to break it in order to reach my goal: variety. This I did by (1) NOT writing a poem when my emotions were clearly on the surface, (2) writing fictional poetry, even when I used the first-person POV (the getting-inside-the-head-of-another fuels my imagination, and gets me rolling; it’s like scriptwriting), and (3) listening to music when I try to write what I intend to write but can’t seem to find the poetic order/flow/beat, i.e. the musicality in/of a poem.

    It does help when you come to a firm decision what you want in your writing, as a whole (re: style, voice, etc.), what you want to see or hear in it that isn’t there now. Then aim for it. Discipline, perseverance — these aren’t strange terms to a writer, be of prose or of poetry. :)

    I grinned ear to ear when you said: “I can’t choose to be miserable just so I can write.” Now there’s a healthy quote. Here’s to your ‘getting there’ — cheers!’

    Thanks for your email (sent May 24) and for bookmarking my poetry site.

  • […] to help me recover from the guilt and fear I feel about not creating. I’ve received much good advice from friends and fellow workers, but the angst remains. I need a recovery program, so I created one:   […]

  • I don’t think I can improve on the comments you have received so far. Its your call. But for selfish reasons I hope you stick around in some form. I would miss your voice if you stopped.

  • “Arggh. I’m having a writer’s midlife crisis. Have you ever had one? ”

    I think I”m in one. Big cheerleader of journal writing that I am, I haven’t written but a few pages in the last five weeks. So much fun could be in those pages with the events of my life at present. But Arggh, as you say.

    I did sign up, just today, for a writing workshop in July. Perhaps that will propel me back into the world. Have had a similar problem with reading this year. Now that things are starting to slow down, I’m understanding the words I’m reading. A comforting feeling.

    Perhaps just a little time away will get back into the groove. Sort of like the exercise groove. Hard to get there, but once you do – or so they say.

  • barbara says:

    Do people really write because they have to? Isn’t that just a conceit? An excuse for doing what they want. I write because it feels good. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t.

    • Barbara, your directness is refreshing. I guess it is an excuse to make it seem more…I’m not sure what the word is.

      And I hear another vote for choice. If you write because it makes you feel good, and you stop because now it doesn’t, there really isn’t an issue, is there?

      Guilt begone!

  • neil reid says:

    One. Pamela, I too write because it is my choice to write. No big deal or confession. Nothing to apologize for in the least.

    Two. Me, I need a certain calm or peace from which to write. But then again, that’s not a rule. It just “depends”!

    Three. How about this? Write when you want and don’t when you don’t. What’s the fuss about “real writers”? You’re a writer when you write, and not when you’re not. So what? Really. Being born, dying, those are significant events; the rest is frosting. We care of course, but it is frosting all the same. Pick a card, any card.

    And let’s see, when was the last day I couldn’t stand to see another “poem prompt”? About two days ago. Today I want to write again. We got tides, just like the beach. Don’t believe anything as the only thing. Changing changes. (Ain’t that trite!)

    And beg pardon about “real writing” and “blogging”! I’m not offended. Does seem a not uncommon attitude, but show me “more real” if you please. Is ink on paper more real? Does only wide public recognition count? Just how many people read a poetry chapbook or some grand anthology to boot? How many books in a bookstore even get touched? And who responds? I like my poems interactively, please. (And I learned that at your door!) So no offense taken, but that’s not my take on blogs.

    So me personally, selfishly, I hope you stick around, writing poems or not. I like your poems. I like your company. Yet the dance is always yours to choose.

    Then again, as COMMENTS go elsewhere, maybe I have tickled the ear of your muse? Now I’ll worry some! :) You write good I much respect!

    • Wow, Another vote for choice. I’m starting to feel liberated.

      Neil, your responses, and the others, have made me realize how isolated I’ve been. We are connected in so many ways and I love your take on the interactivity of the web.

      Thank you.

  • Even though I’m old I’m a somewhat new writer. (ten years) I guess I’m just a neophyte, but so far for me the fun hasn’t worn off yet. Maybe part of it is I don’t write for a living.

    Dr. B

    • Jeez, Dr. B, if you’re a neophyte, I’m not born yet. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to breathe right now. :-)

      It’s awe inspiring and intimidating that you haven’t run out after ten years. I’m happy to know you!

      (Go read Dr. B’s blog – you won’t be sorry.)

  • My humble opinion? You’re evolving as a creative person. Just like this blog, now renamed, you are no longer newly hatched. You can fly with the best of them.

    I spent a lot of my adult life in the wilderness before I realized how much I love creating, most specifically photography. I still kick words around, poems mostly, but I know what sets a fire under me when it comes to creating. My resolution was to learn to allow myself to feel and enjoy those people, places, experiences that I had let pass me by in the past, the ones I love, not those someone else loves. I also channel my very strong impulsive side into my art, which is where it fits and works very effectively, unlike in other aspects of my life.

    Clearly you’re moving away from angst having a major influence in your life. A good thing in so many ways, but not an easy one when you’re used to that certain stimuli setting you off creatively.

    Whatever your choice or commitment, you’ll always have my friendship and support.

    • Marc, thank you. It helps it have this identified as evolution. I didn’t have that take, I thought of it as de-evolving.

      And, yes, tapping creativity without angst is a challenge, but an important one. I can’t choose to be miserable just so I can write. :-) I envy you your photography – it appears you can do it however you feel.

  • You know I have writer’s crises because I blog about them (Blue Muse anyone?) At least once a week I question why I continue writing. I don’t consider myself as someone who has to write. Like you, writing is not my only creative outlet. I write because I enjoy it, but I haven’t always written on “paper.” And I expect you will continue composing poems, if only in your head.

    Maybe you need to do no writing, or maybe you need to try writing in a different form. But it certainly can’t be considered bad that you’re at a calm place in your life right now. :-)

    • Linda, you’re so prolific that I overlook your crises. My bad. And for the same reason I didn’t realize that you also choose to write.

      It’s so ironic, isn’t it, that calm begets…nothing? I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about the calm. Maybe I can be a non-Buddhist Buddhist poet.

      Thank you for your support!

  • G says:

    I think everyone goes through that from time to time. I’ve had two separate year long writing droughts (Winter ’06 through Fall ’07 & most of ’08 through Spring ’09), and it took me forever to battle through it.

    I got rid of the first one by challenging myself to write “clean” short story (incredibly difficult if you’re familiar with what I write), which I was able to do and that lasted about five or six months. The second only lasted as long as it did because I was more consumed with blogging as opposed to simply writing but by the time ’09 rolled around, I had built up enough confidence in my ability to write through my blogging that I restarted my writing and haven’t looked back since.

    I wouldn’t get too down on yourself about your lack of writing. Sometimes, we just need to take a break from writing our preferred items of choice (in your case, poetry) and try to concentrate on writing something frivolous, like blogging. For me, blogging has been a godsend. Whenever I feel the need to take a break on writing short stories and what not, I concentrate on writing stuff for my blog. No stress and no aggravation is involved, and after a taking about a month break, I have about ten handwritten blog posts at the ready and I started rewriting a horribly written short story from 2006.

    • Thanks, G. You make a good point about blogging. It’s carried me through in the past. I need to get over feeling like it’s cheating…it’s the “real writer” thing nagging me!

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