22 February 2013

Into Silence

Tonight I went to a poetry reading by D. A. Powell. At one point he said something close to the following:

You write yourself into silence.

Which reminded me of this quote by Rilke:

This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?

Both speak to the deep need to get something out. Powell was discussing that feeling when you reach the end of a project. That sudden moment of having said the thing you needed to and knowing you were done.

Rilke is talking about the inner drive of writing. That NEED. He seems to be saying that those who cannot answer the question with a strong 'yes' should get out of the game. I agree. I have little patience for writers who don't feel it strongly.

I've been thinking/dealing/facing that silence lately. I have this novel sitting here that I should be editing but can't bring myself to even look at the computer file. I've re-named it thinking I could trick my brain to opening it and starting the hard work that must be done to get it published. But no...

I've contented myself with submitting poems and short stories to journals. It's kept me feeling busy though has done little to make me feel 'better'.

That word is a trick. I'm not so sure I know what feeling 'better' about my writing 'career' would look like. Or feel like. You will notice that I put sarcasm quotes around 'career'. Picture me using my fingers to make the quote sign.

It isn't that I don't think of myself as a writer. It's that I ONLY think of myself as a writer. That it's scary when I feel less like the thing I define myself as. I wouldn't characterize this as a 'block'. That would imply that I have no ideas or have stopped writing. This is not the case.

Ideas are piling up. They flood. I wrote a ten page poem in January and early February. The plan for it is to stretch to at least 30 pages. So, I am definitely 'writing'.

Maybe it's the book reviews. The books are, for the most part, not so great. I've read 6 books. 3 have been good. Of those 3, only one was great. The other 3 were kinda terrible. I'm writing 200-word reviews that are insipid at best. BUT, I am getting paid to do them. So few can say they get paid to write that I feel bad hating on it but there it is.

I don't even know that this is the problem.

Powell also discussed the changing form he uses in his writing. He said that after a project, meaning a book, there is a moment where you have to figure out how to do it again. How to find a new music. 

Perhaps this is just me finding that new music. The long poem I'm working on calls back to the long work I did when I was in undergrad. It is loosely based on a poem from then as well. It has roots in an idea from then.

All of this is to say that I have come upon a great silence in my work. A strange void where not much is getting said. I am trying to work around it by submitting and re-thinking past ideas. The story I sent around was 10 years old. The poem I have chopped and elongated was 11. Neither were bad ideas or work, they have found a second life while I attempt to navigate whatever dark water I have stumbled into.

Whether it's ok or not. Whether the music can be found. What this silence I've found is. And what my answer to it will be. Those things are left for the moment.

I was telling JG today that I am ok with ambiguity. And I am. But I need to discover what exists inside it before I can actually LIVE with it.