Last week, I came upon Becky Tuch’s “On Quitting Writing,” which is actually a series of statements by authors and editors about why they don’t quit writing, or why they came back after a long hiatus. Which, of course, got me thinking about what keeps me going, especially because my focus is on poetry, and there isn’t even lousy pay in that — there’s no pay (okay, there’s a little pay once in a while, but not really). I don’t have the hope of an increasingly-elusive six-figure advance to keep me going when times get tough.
So what is it that drives me when I’ve gotten way too many rejection letters in a given week? Or when a journal sends me two rejection letters because for some reason their system didn’t think the first rejection went through? What brought me back to poetry when I hadn’t given it any substantial attention in roughly six years?
All I know is that when I was twelve, during spring break in sixth grade, I decided that I was going to write poetry. I had never written a poem before (outside of creative writing exercises in school). But I was going to learn.
All I know is that during the six years I wasn’t writing poetry, I was still compelled to try every once in a while.
All I know is that now, if I go a day without writing even the roughest draft of a poem, I feel twitchy and restless, and as though the entire day has been a waste.
All I know is that I love words. I think I love words more than I love avocados and semicolons. And if you know me, you know that’s a pretty big deal.
All I know is that, at the end of the day, even if no editor takes a particular poem, at least I can say I’ve created something I love.
That’s all writing is about, really. Making something you believe in. Something that gives you meaning. I want people to read and enjoy my poems, but really, all I need is a space to play with words and make something outside the constraints of my day job. Outside the constraints of what other people want from me.