Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poetic Justice

Yesterday I sat in a small circle of writers and listened as Tina Kelley spoke for an hour about her life as a journalist and a poet (not to mention a wife and mother.) Tina writes and blogs for The New York Times and is a published poet who is shopping her second collection.

As a lifelong writer who has often dreamed of having her work see the light of day, this struck me as interesting because it drove home the point that getting published once is no guarantee that the door is open to you forever. But by no means was this the only message that I carried out of the room. Or the most important one. It was the reminder that inspiration comes from paying attention every day. It comes from anywhere, anyone, at any time. And it doesn’t have to be showcased in a 2,000-word essay or a short story. It can shine in a poem or a blog entry.

Any writer worth their salt knows enough to jot these vision moments in a journal before they slip away. What Tina spoke about—and punctuated with several readings from both her published and yet-to-be so work—is the necessity of having a process that ensures that these kernels of creativity are easy to access. This may sound like a small thing, but for me it was huge. Because when I turn a page in my journal, all of the thoughts and ideas logged on the preceding pages simply vanish. When I highlight a passage in a book, dog-ear the page, and then put the book away, it’s rare that I remember what resonated or why.

Tina culls her notes every few weeks and stores the best of them in a file on her computer. And after what happened Monday, I’m going to start doing this, too. I was listening to the radio and heard a line in a song that went something like this: “Life is going along just fine and then one day someone leaves you—and nothing is ever the same.” I don’t know who sang it and I didn’t write it down. But I hope it will do more than inspire me to write. It could be the catalyst for this one small change in my writing process. And that’s a big deal.

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