As much as I wish that writing always flowed easily, it doesn’t. Sometimes (especially with poems) I’ll get those couple lines in my head that do lead to more when I start writing. Often, though, those couple lines dry up, and I’m left wishing I had a dowsing rod.
I’ve developed a writing process over the years that works well for me: scribble freely, crossing out words, even stanzas. Doodle in the margins. Write the alphabet across the top of the page to remind myself that there are lots of words out there to choose from. If I had started the piece on the computer (instead of in a notebook) I print a copy and work on that. I love the tug of the pen across the paper. I love seeing the jumble of ideas, the words discarded, the shape of the poem.
Sometimes even that isn’t enough. I simply have to walk away, leaving whatever fragment exists to fend for itself until I come back to it. That might be weeks later, or years, or never. Sometimes I think I’m done, then decide to change a title here, a word there…then change it all back again depending on my mood or the weather or how my kids are doing.
I was working on a poem last week that I’ve had to leave. I had an image in my mind of what I wanted, and I had these lines:
The tired sun yawns
And lays itself down
To sleep among the pines
I stretch myself across
The darkened water
And let one feather fall
That was part of the picture. I tried to write the rest and ended up with this:
Three teens at waters-edge
Skip stones across the pond
One sinks, one glides, one skims
I win. No, I do. I.
Close by, a toddler pink
Scoops and dumps wet sand
Each pailful plop, plop, plops
Then starts again.
I wait until the tired sun yawns
Then lays itself to sleep among the pines
I stretch myself across the quiet water
Then let one feather fall.
It’s not working yet as a whole. The rhythm is off and…well, I’m not sure. I know it doesn’t feel right yet, but I reached the point of over-working it, so I put it aside. The notebook page it’s written on is a beautiful scribbled mess. This clean copy will be saved on the computer in my poetry file, printed out again when the time is right. I hope a finished version will reveal itself. It might be that I scrap most of it, keeping the original few lines. Maybe I’ll rewrite them to fit better with the rest. For now, I’ll stop poking it and let it rest.