Maybe you’ve seen the adage that you can’t move on in your life if you’re stuck revising the past. (Well, it’s a variation of some more common versions.) I know the message is aimed at an individual’s emotional life, but it hits writers hard, too. No matter our subject or genre, the project in front of us draws on the past – even if it’s nothing more than research we did earlier or our previous drafts. It’s even truer when you’re heeding the counsel, “Write about what you know.”
For an author or poet, moving on typically comes when a project is finally published. Well, one usually moves on into promoting the work, even if the writer’s thinking and work are already on a new project.
Up to that point, the writing can usually be revised – and with poetry, there’s no end, you just have to let it go.
For most of my five decades of writing, my literary efforts – writing, revising, submitting to journals, and attending readings and workshops – came in my “free” time. And for a good portion of that, I was just getting a locale and its people in focus when my job would uproot me and I’d have to move on – just as one big project or another was coming into focus. I’d have to put work aside to complete later.
It also meant that much of my life was stuck in revising the past – meaning the unpublished projects – even I was adding more from the new encounters.
For me, blogging has freed much of that past, weaving it actively into my present. And the book-length releases at Smashwords.com and Thistle/Flinch, especially, have been emotionally liberating.
Seeing the poetry, in particular, as it’s appearing almost daily at the Red Barn gives me a fresh perspective. For all of my repeated honing of the work, compressing to some essence, I also sought a sense of jazzy improvisation and raw edges, an admission of working on the run in contemporary society. A recent essay on graffiti as public art, in contrast to the oil canvas masterpieces of earlier centuries, keeps echoing in my awareness. Yes, I can see many of my poems as graffiti or at least swift sketches or calligraphy.
Yes, there are things I’d revise and other points that leave me wondering just what prompted the line. But they’re up now, in your presence, and I can move on.
What a relief!
At this point in my life and career, I don’t even have to worry about what critics might say, though kind words from perceptive readers and fellow writers are always appreciated.
Not that I’m fishing for compliments …