The writing process can be quite tricky. Writing about it isn’t any easier. You often hear writers say things like “I have not written any new in quite some time” or simply “I have been having a dry spell, and I don’t know how long it will last”.
Writing about this dry-spell may offer a diagnosis on why the cogs in your brains aren’t tuning.
Having deadlines to meet during the MA made me question the existence of the writer’s block or dry-spells. Because whether I liked or not, wanted or not, I had to produce new work every month or so, so I was writing regularly. While the quality of the work is disputable, I wrote 6 new poems every tutorial.But now that deadlines are no longer threatening with me a whip, I am finding it difficult to write poetry again.
Could this “writer’s block” be natural and necessary part of the writing process?
I believe it is. And here’s why:
1-Not writing is painful. And allowing yourself the time and space to feel that pain of not being able to write is important to remind you why you write in the first place. A dry-spell makes you long for rain. Makes you appreciate it, look forward to it. And when it pours down, it always feels refreshing, healing, and promising.
2-Recharaging your creativity. The past two years were hectic. But by the end of the MA programme, I felt I had given everything I got. I consumed all my energy, knowledge, and experiences. Now when I think about writing, I feel like I no longer have any new ideas as if my data is erased and my mind is a blank slate. This creates a chance to recharge. I firmly believe in “when you aren’t writing, you should be reading”. Creative practitioners stress on how important it is to read the works of other creative practitioners. I write poetry, but I read everything. New perspectives, smart usage of language, energizing imaginations do exist in all forms of literature. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to expose yourself to all these resources that would enrich your creativity. Keeping an open mind while reading is a key to becoming a better writer.
3-You don’t feel what you write is valuable. Of the two reasons I have mentioned this is the most destructive and most deliberate.Sometimes it’s not a writer’s block that’s keeping you from writing but it’s doubt and fear of rejection. The other two “phases” of not writing may eventually result with new writings. But this feeling of failure may kill your effort in its cradle.
Seeing your effort going down the drain makes you question if you are any good. Failing to see that your writing is taking you anywhere beyond a few likes on Instagram makes you wonder, what’s the point?
I try to remind myself that if I don’t write, no one cares. I’m the one at loss. And if I write, still no one cares but I end up doing something I truly love and care about.
For now I am letting these doubts consume me. I always see the danger in overconfidence rather than in the lack of it. My poems reflect the progression I make in life. I might be a mediocre poet for now but if I stop writing I may never know what I can become. This thought keeps me going even when I have just received the most recent rejection letter.
I enjoy writing about writing, because it helps me recapture the ups and downs of the writing process itself. And as I mentioned it’s like running a diagnosis on why you aren’t writing.
For the Women
For the women who think
I’m too dark
my hair is too tangled
I’m too tall, too short
too round, too flat
I forgive you.
For the women who pity me
because I’m alive
but my womb is always vacant
because I’m a mother
but all my children are females
I forgive you.
For the women who shame me
because I’m putting a ring on it
I’m not putting a ring on it
I took off the ring
I don’t want to put a ring on it
I forgive you.
For the women who mock me
because I wear my face
with or without hiding my acnes, birthmarks, burns
because I wear what I want
without being ashamed, weak, or sorry
I forgive you.
For the women who condemn me
because I slap back, talk back, fight back
cook, clean, drive, ride, fly, protest
read, write, design, travel, study, love
I forgive you.
She plans her protest
tucks a handkerchief in her satchel
she writes slogans and fold them like flags
she wears that dappled jeans shirt
she never liked and will never again
she checks on her voice;
the one she’s been storing it in a jar
she makes sure no one suspects anything
mother worries too much; forgot her voice in the jar
father sides with gargoyles, till he became one
brother thinks only men go to square and become martyrs
sister thinks it’s not too late to find a husband
she closes the door behind her
knowing her jaw might get broken
by men like her father and brother
her bones might sleep in a dirty cell
guarded by women like sister and mother
she broke the jar and let her voice out
echoing across every square
her the sound of other jars
This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
I am a poetry writer. I find it very difficult to say that I am a poet. After all I’ve never published a collection of poems. My poems haven’t appeared in famous poetry magazines or websites. The word poet for me is like buying your child size 5 while they are still 3. They will grow into it.
I am a poetry writer. I’m currently writing poems for my assignments. But I wrote my first poem in 2003 and since then I have not stopped. I’m not planning on stopping. When the deadlines stop, I hope I will still sit and write, or try to write.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel like I arrived to the party late. All the guests have left, all the food was served, and all the decorations were removed. They say that poetry is dead art. And sometimes it does feel frustrating that of all writings, I write the least popular, the least prestigious, and the least profitable. I sometimes do wish I wrote computer programs instead. But then I come to read a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye or watch Suheir Hammad performing one of her poems. I feel that something so powerful, poignant, and so moving can’t be dead. It fills me with this urge to write and write more, to think of what magic tricks words could perform, what messages it could deliver. I know that writing poetry probably won’t take me places. It is not the next big thing for me. But I know it’s THE thing for me.
I am a poetry writer. Sometimes I feel that I wasn’t even invited to the party, but I crashed it anyway. English isn’t my first language. My mother tongue is Arabic.
But my poems chose their own, English. I have loved English since I was 10. I learned it through English songs. Maybe that’s why my poems are in English. But this makes me want to place emphasis that my poems are in English, but they aren’t English. They are everything that I am; Muslim, Palestinian woman of color. This may make people take my poetry less seriously. But I have no interest writing poems like Wordsworth or even T.S Eliot. My poems are like my fingerprints. They distinguish me. They define me.
I am a poetry writer.
And I will keep writing poems; Crappy ones, mediocre ones, excellent ones.
I will probably keep writing poems that will be only published on my personal Facebook page.
I will probably keep writing poems that I only read and like.
I will probably keep writing poems that make me feel that I never want to write again.
I will probably keep writing poems just for the sake of it.
I don’t claim to be an experienced poet or an expert on poetry. These are observations that I’ve come to realize since I am excited about poetry and I do use social media to promote my poems.
1-Poetry always finds a way: let’s talk about poetry journals, magazines and books. They are those far and formidable fortresses that reject most of commoners, unseasoned poets. Rejection letter after another, poets start searching for an alternative to share their work. And social media, particularly Instagram, has offered this outlet. And it’s not only accessible, it’s also popular and innovative. So poets using social media hardly come as surprise.
2-Social media is changing the form of poetry and its length. And it’s not a bad thing. William Wordsworth would be delighted that in the age of social media his daffodils are on Youtube. Fast pace life requires fast pace poems. Shorter and more poignant poems. And in the age of 140 digits, 1080px photo as a poet you have to accommodate your poems. #Instapoem, #poetrygram are a real thing now. And it’s proven that it has an audience.
3- Poetry is a craft. And that’s what poets on Instagram often forget. While it’s true that social media is game changer for poetry and poets, it’s crucial to remember that poetry is something you learn. It’s a science. You learn its different terminology, its theories, and its craft. Poets are born, but you still need to learn its ins and outs to write better. And believe me, it’s not an easy thing.
4-Don’t mistake diaries for poems. While dairies can be poems in the making, they aren’t poems. And motivational, emotional, and inner thoughts that operate within abstractions fall short to be full-fledged poems. An advice to fellow poets read Ezra Pounds essay on poetry. And start from there.
5-Find a middle ground: people shy away from poetry thinking it has to be perplexing labyrinth of language and thought only understood by the elites . And some people, thanks to some very simplistic shallow poems found on Instagram, think that social media has ruined poetry. It doesn’t have to be this way though. One has to study poetry ,no doubt. Social media isn’t an excuse for mediocre poems. But also one shouldn’t give up writing poetry , because poetry journals are some exclusive clubs.
If you are a poet and write good poetry and read good poetry, you shouldn’t hold it back. But don’t compromise quality because you want to be a popular Instagram poet. And don’t despair because poetry journals are rejecting your poems. Write for yourself first and foremost. And have lots of coffee and self-doubt.
And by the way I have started my own Instagram account where I share my poems Poeticalaspirations
I’ve never intended to let my voice
crackle with sultry tears
while reading this poem
but a mother kissing
the forehead of her dead child
took over my chimes
I’ve never intended to sound
like laboring lava
while reading this poem
but a soldier’s strip-search and spits
a cop’s stop and frisk
made me erupt
I’ve never intended to close
my eyes and lose breath
while reading this poem
but my boat is sinking
washing me ashore, face down in sand
I’ve never intended to write this poem