Variety is the Spice of Life

19 Mar

Okay. Let’s start with a confession. Everybody loves a good confession. I am a writer who has not been writing.

After studying creative writing and poetry for approximately 7 years, I’ve spent the last three years afraid to put my butt in the chair and just write. Anything. Not a poem, not a draft, forget trying my hand at fiction. I’ve cautiously kept to grocery lists, thank you notes, emails and course descriptions. As any writer knows, the longer you avoid writing, the scarier the thought of writing gets. The pressure you put on yourself to write something worthwhile builds, you start to wonder if you’ll be any good at it anymore. When you admit to not writing, your family and friends chastise you for wasting a talent, giving up on a dream, letting a once pivotal piece of your identity start to disappear. You start to accept that you weren’t really cut out to be a writer to begin with. Except…

Except that thought is heartbreaking. Life changing. Catastrophic.

Except, chances are you’ll have at least one friend, one understanding fellow writer who sympathizes with you and tells you, more than once and in more than one fashion, that even a silence of three years can be broken. That you should “Write it!” “even though it may seem like…disaster”*.

Except eventually you will face the facts. You love writing. You are good at it. You will hear your friend.

I am lucky enough to have that friend, and her advice to me was to try writing something new. Try a blog. Well, since then this blog has been in the works… first as just a simmering idea, then as a pressing to-do, and, as of late, an empty wordpress template. I wish sitting down and starting writing anything was as simple for me as it was for Bilbo Baggins at the beginning of “Lord of the Rings” when he dips his quill and scratches out “Concerning Hobbits.” But it’s not.

First you have to have an idea of what you’re going to be writing about. And THEN you face the horrific task of settling on a title, which is where I’ve been stuck for about a month. It will come as no surprise to my family that I had a hard time making a decision. Growing up, my Mom always had a range of 3-8 dressings in the fridge to pour on our salads… when I open a restaurant menu I typically don’t decide on my order until the waiter stands giving me an expectant look. I am also a perfectionist, which is one of the many reasons I think I am a good poet, or a good writer. I have already revised this post three times. I can linger over the choice of just the right word for days… months in a poem.

There are a thousand billion blogs out there, but the best ones seem to have a focus:  So when it came to thinking about what my blog should be about, I made a list:

Fairy Tales
The Food Industry & Sustainable Eating
My Dogs

I didn’t want to write a blog about any of these things… I wanted to write a blog about all of these things. And I wanted there to be space for more, in case some new passion arrived. In other words, as a Queen of Indecision, I decided not to decide. For those of you who say this is just another way to put off making a real decision, I simply say “Off with your head!”

But that left the pesky little matter of a title still at hand. Now the task seemed even more daunting because I had to choose a title that the poet in me would be happy with. It had to say “this blog is about everything and anything”, it had to say grab bag, button jar, potpourri, miscellany. I thought I had it with Affinities (echoing the title of one of my poems) but that URL was already taken. Dangnabit! Finally the poet in me started brainstorming images… things that I loved that implied variety, magic, and possibility.

“Spinning Straw into Gold” was an idea, but that’s what I’ve named one of the courses I teach and felt too much like an old hat. Finally, Eureka! I thought of the apothecary’s chest… a chest made of so many little drawers… think of everything that would be inside those drawers… the trinkets, potions,spices and minerals. I imagined a chest with a thousand of these little drawers… all the bottles lining his shelves in the shop. And that naturally led me to the alchemist, with a similar array of materials spread out… attempting to make gold. Almost a witch, but without the ugly nose. More Shakespeare than Harry Potter. Perfect! Apothecary’s Chest, Alchemist’s Table.

And so, boys and girls, my dear hobbits, muggles, Narnians, Lost Boys, Mad Hatters and Munchkins… this is the path we are upon. In this blog I’ll be writing about everything, anything…maybe along the way I will find something to focus on. But the point is, I’ll be writing.

*from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “One Art”


Posted by on March 19, 2011 in Writing



6 responses to “Variety is the Spice of Life

  1. Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg

    March 19, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    So excited! And so glad that you didn’t narrow yourself to one topic– I think the best blogs wander (and wonder) into all sorts of little spaces!

  2. Christine Smith

    March 19, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    At the risk of sounding trite: “You go girl!”

  3. Ruth J

    March 19, 2011 at 1:31 PM

    Wow–brave first post. Kudos!

    I agree with you–there are so many ways that writers can become creatively paralyzed after an MFA program: lack of available work in one’s field, frustration over rejection, uncertainty over the general future of books/readership in America, the sudden dissolution of that support network of writers so present at a place like Purdue… I feel you!

    Sometimes I think MFA programs should really focus on how to prepare writers for life post-MFA. It would be scary to hear the daunting statistics, but at least we would emerge knowing what kind of odds we’re against. You know, the whole “Look at the person on your right. Now look at the person on your left. Two out of three of you are not going to publish.” Harsh, but worth it, I wonder?

  4. Auntie M

    March 19, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    Interesting is your list of choices to write about and now comes the decision of what to write next: why this and not that. I have put you in my “Favorites” and subscribed to your site/blog. So now you have “Followers” that wait to see what your keyboard types next.

  5. Auntie M

    March 19, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    P.S. Maybe a description of future pics would be nice, is that yours or just a random picture taken from a cd.

  6. Kristin

    March 20, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    I’m a fellow poet and “grab-bag” blogger, so I’m very excited to read your words. Welcome to the blog world!


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