In lieu of some short, creative piece of fiction, today I thought I’d start a discussion about something I discovered while writing yesterday’s post. It’s called Heart, and like so much of what I write, it didn’t seem to fit in a category. There was no story, no characters (not really, anyway). The prose was flowery and descriptive, filled with more imagery than is good for the average person. It occurred to me as the words poured out so fluidly that a lot of my posts are like that one- fairly short, just a description meant to interrogate, or ask some question I’d been puzzling over. I stared at the words on the screen after my cursory proofread and thought, “I wish there was some way for this kind of writing to be meaningful for more than a writing exercise.”
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the way I write. I love the way words flow- the unique character of every sentence is dear. My writing comes straight from my mind onto the paper (or the screen). Most of the time, I don’t edit it much. Sometimes, I don’t even reread it. I can, narcissistically, feel the perfection of the thought. But I’ve always struggled with longer pieces. Whenever I start my novel (and I have, about four times now), I quickly feel bogged down by exposition and uncertainty. I can’t latch on to the characters, though part of me feels I know them, and the large threads of plot refuse to resolve themselves into details. The dialogue feels forced- no one has a voice I can capture adequately. In my lowest moments, I berate myself for these failings. How can I not write even a rough draft of what exists only in my head? The story, those meanings, what I hold dear and adore, will never be communicated if I am not the one to set fingers to the keys and communicate them with the dear words. In my most self-pitying moments, I assure myself that everyone’s first draft is terrible, but yet I am unable to drag myself to work to finish even that. But on this blog, or in rare inspired moments, what comes most easily into words are short fictions ( at the most it’s a short story), or these philosophical descriptions. Even with the writing endorphins humming, my logical brain says Give it up, Katherine, you can’t publish stuff like this and be a real author. This could never be a book. You might say I have a negative monster, peeking out from inside my head. I prefer to see my monster as my practical friend. Yet, still, yesterday I paid attention to the discomfit the piece gave me.
As I stared at my screen, the cursor less of an enemy than usual (in my head, the cursor is Blinky from Pac Man), a thought dropped like rain into my mind. Recently for English class I read part of a poetry collection by Wislawa Szymborska, a Polish Nobel Laureate. She had a fascinating life, which you can read about here, and her poetry is instantly, simply, relatable despite her completely alien context from me. For example, she writes:
“Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes
that, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?”
-“Birthday” by Wislawa Szymborska
As I reread Heart again, something in it spoke to me of Szymborska, of the way I thought “I might be able to write something like this” before I realized the complexities of meaning her works truly present. I still believe I could write something with such an appearance- simple, yet erudite. I don’t know how to hope for greatness in lauds or meaning. Even then, Heart reminded me that my little paragraphs, my little “meaningless” drabbles, with a eye for rhythm could be reworked into poems. I realized what I’m writing is “sideways poetry”- I just haven’t put it into lines and stanzas, because my thoughts are linear, not geometric. So, a new resolve formed, a delicate bubble. I will keep writing drabbles. I will not be ashamed if they are all I produce. I will finish the Szymborska collection. I will study the rhythm, meter, selection of line breaks, even rhyme. I will read more poetry, and write more, always write more, until I can command tone. Maybe then I will find my voice. Maybe I will find a character’s voice. Or maybe I’ll just understand poetry. I will be a poet, since that’s what my errant fingers seem to want.
I’d still like to write a novel. After all, my characters have an epic quest. But maybe I am a poet first. Or maybe I need to be a poet first. Poems are so concentrated- every word is packed with purposefully picked power. If I begin with poetry, will I find voice?
I don’t know. But today, I resolve to rotate my perspective as I consider my writing. I will not be bound by format, or publishing, or any such constraint. After all, it’s just a construct of my ordered mind, making sense of a necessarily chaotic process. I will not stifle the poet within. Maybe the poet will write the novel, not the person.
I am a poet. I am a writer. That’s enough for now. I’ve discovered the identity of a poet hides in the smallest of places- the tip of my fingers.
Any writing revelations? Do you agree or disagree? Do you think you’ve been writing in the wrong format too? Tell me below! This feature is new, so please tell me if you’d like to see more pieces like this!