Friday, September 07, 2007

In Which I Dance My Way Out of Being Discouraged

Yesterday I pulled every book on poetry writing I had off my shelves and began desperately searching for tips on revision. One of my problems when revising my own writing is that I will begin tearing it apart. If I am lucky, a poem that goes on for more than a page will have two or three lines I actually like. The rest I will instantly label as useless. I thought that maybe I would find some suggestions that would help me to get out of my own way and finally determine how to properly (and compassionately) critique my own writing.

I do not exaggerate, although I wish I did, when I say that every single book I read said, “Now that you have received critiques, you are ready to revise.” Or, a variation of the same: “Now that you have workshopped your poems . . .”

Two discoveries made. One, there is obviously a serious need for a book that really focuses on how to revise poetry line by line, stanza by stanza, etc. Two, I am right and continue to be right in saying that I need (not just want!) some writers who are willing to commit to working with me on honing our crafts.

And I’ve been saying this for how many years? How many writing groups have I formed only to have members go off and form their own writing groups? Or just go away and write without me? How many manuscripts have I read and critiqued only to get nothing in return? (There is one exception to this rule and she knows who she is.)

So I didn’t do any work on my chapbook yesterday. Instead, I bellydanced. Then, last night, I continued reading DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way to Heal and I only ended up reading about how she, when she is feeling discouraged, calls her fellow writer and friend, a woman who encourages and who shares suggestions (aka critiques), whenever she needs to focus. Then she goes on to write repeatedly at different points about the importance of creative community for support in growing creatively.

I stopped reading.

This morning I pulled out my chapbook (part one only) and plopped it on the kitchen table. Then I read my emails, paid for an ebay item I won, wrote in my journal, answered more emails, then I did some more bellydancing. Now it is time for me to stop and have lunch.

Also time to face myself and my writing. I am reminding myself every minute that I need to be gentle with my own writing, as gentle as I would be if I were asked to critique someone else’s writing. I want to get this part of the chapbook revised to where I think it is ready to be shared.

And I am throwing down the gauntlet. I, the student, am ready! It is about damn time that my teacher showed up already. Not a teacher who is full of empty promises about how we can help one another. Not a teacher who wants me to help but isn’t ready or willing to reciprocate. A teacher who is ready for me to be both teacher and student in return. A mutually beneficial relationship. Not codependent or dependent but interdependent.

I have been writing indepently long enough. I want more than this. What’s more, I know I need it!

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