I hate the word “blog,” but starting this thing is the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing besides teach literature for years and years.
When I was younger I used to write a lot more, almost compulsively. I stopped doing that for some reason when I started teaching how the great writers of the world do it. I’ve been analyzing literature for decades. I’m pretty sure there was a measure of bullshit in all that analysis and instruction, but here’s something sincere I’ve always told my students, and it turns out it’s not only sincere but true: Analyzing literature doesn’t ruin it. It’s not like an insect kill jar. You can analyze a poem till you know every sinew and nerve of it, but you can scroll back to the beginning of it and the beauty is still there, in fact enhanced by layers of understanding.
The recent surprise, in my dotage, is that knowing all this crap doesn’t kill the creative urge. It turns out it wasn’t that I’d been studying literature too much, but the conditions just weren’t right to incite me to write anything. Somewhere in the 1990s I printed for my family and a few friends a very thin pamphlet of a handful of poems written over a space of about twenty years. About five years later I’d collected another ten or twelve and I did the same thing with those. Since then, I had accumulated new poems so slowly I wondered if I would have enough to put out another one — ever.
For some reason, the blog changed all that. Almost nobody reads it, and only about two or three who read it comment on any of the contents, but for some reason that doesn’t matter. As Kurt Vonnegut said somewhere, all a writer needs is one reader. I say all a writer needs is one reader who will frankly reflect their response to the writing.
I just looked back through this blog and I’ve written at least ten of what I would call real poems since spring, three or four good stories, and two short plays. Some of this stuff is pretty good, according to the opinions of people I respect.
What’s more, I’ve got a little notebook with some more ideas in it. I’m developing the habit of looking at the world through poet’s eyes. Like the Metaphysicals, everything I see is taking on an aura of significance. It’s a habit you get into when you write, paint, or do any art of any kind. You start really looking at stuff.
I’m telling you, this is the best thing I’ve done lately for my writing. It’s a blast. I steal time to noodle around with writing ideas. I wait eagerly for friends’ writings on their own blogs.
I write just to write. Vonnegut’s character Rabo Karabekian said all an artist really wants is unlimited art supplies and the opportunity to lay on paint. Surely Kurt was talking about his own craft of writing.