Throughout this series, we’ve discussed various facets of writing, from the will to pursue writing as a craft, to the overcoming of writer’s block, and we’ve even considered the content, that is, we’ve looked closely at what it is that we write, and why we do it. The conclusions to each of these self-studies are not solidified, however, because people change. You will change, over the months, years, or decades and your writing will follow suit. As we change, answers to questions such as ‘why do we write,’ and ‘what do we write,’ may often take new forms. As mentioned in Part Two, literature is an ancient conversation, and one that is still going today. Today’s topics, books, plays, poems, songs, journals and stories have changed undeniably since the beginning of written language, but what is truly fascinating are those aspects of writing that haven’t changed at all. The story arc of literature, if you will, is a telling tale of humanity, the human condition as it expresses itself in words. And each of us, throughout our lives as writers, has his or her own tale to tell.
Writing regularly is of course a tremendous part of developing your craft, and keeping your skills sharp. But there is another significance to it that may even surpass our craft; our writing, from our first love poem in middle school to our final ode to the grave, perpetuates our story, one long arc no more accurately viewable than through the lens of our writing. Those of you with a journal, or a growing collection of poems, or even piles and piles of under developed story-outlines, are actually compiling your story arc, the expression of your life in writing. Below, I have some excerpts from Kitty’s poems, in the order which she wrote them, that show a telling tale to how she’s grown and developed both as a writer, and as a person:
Wait a sec……
Time for somethin’ new.
Get ready for it……
Go! After a rest
it is time to fight again.
You can reach new heights
Fight for it! Try stepping towards
a new level every day!
…what goes down must come up
like my teeth chewing this gum…
He said that being what you are is living your life correctly.
came at the door.
A dog, two cats, a pushy white chicken, and
the first star to come out at night
I’ll let you in
on a little secret……
He buried the gold, I will take away.
“I can’t fly.”
Seemed a distant paradise
where the branch of an olive tree
shone even more brilliantly in the dark.
Look at what’s left.
A tired smile,
resting on it are weary memories.
In the dark.
Creators still create when they can
although under feeble light.
There is always a way.
As the unknown is uncovered,
what danger shall lie beneath its
heavy mist, ghostly coat?
Brings to life
In the thinking wind
Nature will send
A message by
1.from Just a Break After a Fight, Kitty
2.from Go Fly a Kite, Kitty
3.from Dummy Profile, Kitty
4.From Vida, Kitty.
5.From Night, Kitty.
6.From Find the Way in the Dark, Kitty.
7.From Stray, Kitty.
8.From In the Wind, Kitty.
What do we notice about Kitty’s progression, besides more concise writing and more skillful craft? She has a knack for realism, for humor, and a sensitivity to the ‘message’ within each poem. At first, she seemed to just be writing advice, or jokingly trying to motivate her readers, but in the end, she found herself drawn more and more to nature. We can see that since nature is what motivates her, and inspires her, she is discovering a way to use nature in her writing to motivate others the same way! Its profound. And this is only the progression of a young girl throughout no more than a year! Imagine what a life time of poetry might prove!
By writing consistently, and keeping our writing, no matter how bad it is, we can even begin to understand ourselves more deeply.
My favorite professor and advisor, Robin Metz (Knox College Creative Writing Department chair and designer of the highly influential Creative Writing Bachelors program) said to me during my last visit to the college, “Ben, you need to make a movie of your life!” I asked him why I would ever do that, and, although he truly thinks it would be spectacular, what’s more important is compiling all my writing since high school, or earlier if I had it. ‘Don’t ever get rid of them or lose them’, he’d said. “One day, even those poems from high school that you find embarrassing will be so endeared to you, looking back on them and understanding with a profound scope just who you are, where you came from, and where you are still.” People who understand themselves in terms of their entire lives are truly in control of who they are and what they do, and often they achieve a much deeper level of peace than anyone else could ever hope.
In honor of Professor Metz’ advice, I read through many older writings that I’d long since overlooked and pushed to the dustier folders of my computer’s seven-year-old memory banks, and recollected the various stages I’d gone through in my life since I’d left home after high school. I was then inspired to write a new poem, and it’s with that poem that I’d like to conclude this article. Curiously, as I recalled the past, especially my childhood on the farm, I realized many daring ‘jumps of faith’ as I tried to find new, better places. I compare this to baby spiders, who after hatching sometimes climb onto one long strand of web then let the wind float them away to unknown places, a behavior called ballooning, or kiting. Interestingly enough, I used to hate those little things, since on the open farm they were difficult to avoid, every day it seemed two or three of those webs would catch in your hair or on your face, and you’d have to do a little dance as you desperately wiped it away in disgust… Anyway, as you read on, please consider for yourself the value that might be in looking back over your life, remembering all those distant memories, even the difficult ones, in hopes of reaching a deeper understanding of everything you’ve been through, and who it is that you’ve become. Then, as this fresh, new, self-aware person, I urge you: write!
the spider-child breeze drifting free and high,
pebble and branch bound but wanting, its bounty
the sky and the crisp drying sun. Tiny and full,
mulling over space and time, and never thought
it would mime the nimbi, not yet ready to rain; little
does it know…
And what have I to show for floating to and fro
like leaves a’gust or sand in the ocean’s tow,
hoping hard that it’s the hand of God
and not a Nietzschian nature whimming over
and again, needless blood shod,
hanging on, a shout resounding long over
a sea of doubt.
As much a slave as I am free, little me,
does he know?