How’s your spring going? This season feels like the real start of the year to me, with all the bursting, blossoming and waking from the inwardness of winter. It caught me in its gusts recently, and launched me into the kind of writing I’d been missing—unexpected and interesting to me and, most of all, fun. What brought on the big jolt of creative energy besides the season itself? I've been tracking the path that led me out of the black hole of my desk, where the mantra is often "deadline, deadline, deadline," and into the more playful realm that nourishes the poetry and other "non-work" writing I do. Looking back, I can see the power of following small impulses, the nudges to push out of routine and make something new.
Today's impulse? To write another poem. And to share this list of ways to trigger the growth spurt that's aching to surge through your writing life.
1. Throw yourself into the path of the writing and writers you love.
That can mean reading, of course, but it's never been easier to put a favorite (or new) writer's voice in your ear. I've been listening back through the rich and diverse readings and conversations given in recent years—and collected in podcast archives—at the New York Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. (Each of those links will take you to a list of podcasts.) Beyond that starting point, a quick search will turn up worlds of literary podcasts (the Scottish Poetry Library is my newest discovery). I sometimes turn on readings the way I used to turn on the news—for background noise or company—and find myself drawn into the music of the language of Zadie Smith, say, or Paul Auster. It's hard to hear that music without starting to hum.
2. Hang out with your tribe.
Go to real live readings at real live bookstores and libraries and other venues. Spending a half hour in the company of other writers at the back of a bookstore recently reminded me how comfortable it is to be around my people, the ones who are constantly finding ways to make art of experience and to pull that art to the center of their lives. It's easy to lose that habit of just hanging out, comparing notes on books or quirky places to look for inspiration, if you're not in a writing group, or haven't been writing. But don't fret—renewing contact is as easy as venturing out of the cave. Your people will recognize you and draw you in.
3. 'Not writing' is a habit. Imagine what life would be like if you broke it.
Writing used to be what you did in response to inspiration or disappointment or a memory or an image you just couldn't shake. It was a habit. If you were in the habit of writing right now, what would be different about your day? What conversation with yourself and the world would you carry onto the page? What would it be like to do some writing right now? How would it feel? What would it be like to remember how much your soul craves that feeling?
These questions sound simple, but I mention them because considering them pushed me into writing. I could remember the feeling of being with my writing intimately and regularly. I stayed with my longing for that instead of ignoring it or pushing it aside. And the only thing to do in response was to write.
4. Finish something.
Nothing blooms in the netherworld of work left hanging. But finishing releases the energy furled tight in buds. Take out the paragraph you gave up on before working through its problems. Pull out an unfinished story. Find one sentence and then another to polish. You know how to do it. Pick it up. Reach the end.
5. Take a step, any step.
If all the items on the list seem obvious to you, great. Choose one simple, obvious action and actually take it. Spring forward, beautiful writer person. It's time to bloom.
(Peony photo by Sarah's Yard via Flickr.)