Hitting the Wall

Julie’s kind comment about yesterday’s tanka made me think.  I almost gave up on that tanka, thought maybe I’d hit the tanka wall as it were.  After all, I’ve written twenty-two poems so far this month, which might be impressive for anyone, but for me it’s doesn’t even seem possible.  Before last year’s poem-a-day, one-week challenge from Stacey and Ruth (this year’s challenge starts Thursday, folks), writing more than one poem a year was unheard of.  And maybe I had forced out as much poetry as I could hope for?  But I let it sit all night, came back to it at the last minute and found  a way to finish.

So is writing — poetry or anything else — like running, like working out?  You push yourself as far as you can go … and then you get to the point where you feel you can’t go any further, but instead of stopping, you push yourself a little further … and you get past that point and find a new burst of energy?  We’ll see.  My tanka have been mostly inspired by things I see and do outside this house.  Today I’m not budging.  I’ve got to finish that grant proposal I lost yesterday, and I have about a thousand things to do around here.  Can I pull poetry out of housework and fundraising?  We shall see ….


7 thoughts on “Hitting the Wall

    1. I definitely agree that poetry is an exercise … all the writing do is an exercise, and I hope that I improve the more I write, the more I push myself. It’s just really unusual to think of myself as writing poetry, writing so much poetry.


  1. I meant to say before that ALL writing counts–laundry lists and grant proposals included! People sometimes ask me if a I have a writing ritual or routine, and I tell them I wake up and write every day–not poetry or prose, though, I get up and write emails for a couple of hours. Or I blog. Or I read other folks’ blogs. And ALL of that counts as preparation–what do we tell our students? Pre-writing is as important as the writing itself. I personally think writing is 70% dreaming; it’s not forcing yourself to crank out ten pages a day. Writing a poem a day takes a certain kind of discipline and stamina…Suzan-Lori Parks wrote a play a day for a year, and the goal wasn’t to produce 365 outstanding plays–it was the exercise itself that meant something. To me, that’s like training for a marathon; you do it to say you did it. I can only sustain activities I love, but what’s more valuable: your “organic” writing, the work you produce without pressure, or the words you summon on command?


    1. Yes, it all counts … and the things I do that aren’t directly putting my pen to paper — the books I read, the people I talk to, the daydreaming on the bus — all of those things count, too. And I know that, really know that … so it’s still so strange to me that I wouldn’t have thought about all the poems I’ve been writing when I went to my writers’ group. But I’ll be bringing a bunch with me tomorrow!


    2. Oh, forgot to say: I love Parks’ 365 project. The idea is so fantastic. I went to a performance of several of the plays at the Public Theater. A friend of mine was in two of them.


  2. Zetta said it all! Ditto, ditto, ditto. When I wrote Banished the characters lived in my brain until I could sit down and write. When I felt it was time, the writing just came because of the “prewriting” I did with those crazy cats hanging out in the frontal lobe, yo. 🙂

    Keep going, I say!


    1. In some ways, I do think of this poem-a-day business as a way to keep my writing mind awake, keep my focused on a kind of writing that’s different from my work-related writing and my blog writing … And certainly I hope my tanks get better, but I want to believe I’m priming the pump as it were, keeping myself limber so when the next story comes along, I’m ready to write it.


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