Last week I sorted, this week I cleared.
Beginning with my desk, which is often home to tall piles of books and papers and files — the sign of a writer at work, to be sure, but every now and then it’s good to make room. I’ve found that clearing the decks (and/or the desk) can make room in my brain, as well — room for ideas and ruminations.
And I made room in my schedule as well. Mercifully, the family schedule is a bit calmer than it has been, which helps — but I’ve also said No to things. Things at the kids’ school, primarily, which has not always won me most-popular-mom status. But which has been empowering. (I pause here to remind myself: If you don’t make room for your creative life, no one else will).
So, for the first time in many weeks, I made room to sit down and consciously draft poems. I wondered if I’d remember how. But I did remember — it’s all about playing with words and language. I began, as always, by reading other people’s work and writing out of a phrase or image that caught my attention. Then I got busy playing — free associating, mixing sentences, looking up synonyms and etymology, listening for more phrases in my poet’s ear.
And also, by making room. Both drafts I worked on this week didn’t become poems until I started cutting out big chunks of them. It’s easy to resist cutting — right? — but I kept reminding myself I still had the previous, uncut version to go back to. In the end, I don’t think I will go back. The cuts made room for mystery, for leaps, for lyric moments. They let the poem grow, even as the number of lines decreased. I was reminded of one of the maxims I learned from my very first writing teacher: Be brave and cut much.
And also of this quote from Elie Weisel (which I’m sure I’ve shared before, but which bears repeating):
“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.”
Which then reminded me of this quote by Ernest Hemingway:
“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an icebert is due to only one ninth of it being above water.”
I’m not saying I knew enough what I was writing about as I set out to draft, but by cutting, I became more aware of what I was writing about — and it often wasn’t what I thought I was writing about to begin with. Funny how that works.
And, as in poetry so also in life: This week I’ve made a conscious effort to make room for more restorative/relaxation time. It’s always struck me as ironic that just when you need that time the most, it’s hardest to come by. But I’ve wandered, I’ve had a couple conversations with my favorite neighborhood plant (pictured here), I’ve sat on the couch with my feet up working crosswords.
I hope there’s some room in your life right now for whatever you want and need, too. If not, can I gently suggest you consider cutting? 😉