I’ve not been blogging these last few days. I’ve been writing – trying to write! – poetry. And the two mindsets are a wee bit different.
Poetry – you’re not organising facts and you’re minimising planning. You’re looking for a spark, an idea, an emotion, to give you lift-off. Yes, you need to find yourself in territory where you recognise a few landmarks, but it’s about exploring, and going way beyond those landmarks.
“We shall not cease from our exploration/And the end of our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.” (TS Eliot, Little Gidding)
And that’s not the same process as a blog, which is much more, though not entirely, an intellectual, rational, calculated exercise. You need the idea, and the emotion – that drives you forward, but the territory does need to be pretty well charted in advance. Though writing blogs or any non-fiction it is also about moments of revelation as you witter on – bright thoughts that open up new pathways, and can have you busily scribbling out earlier wrong turnings.
And there’s waking in the night… I find I think about ideas for poems, and sometimes half-write them in a kind of creative stupor. Or I think about what might go into a blog – that’s what really wakes you up. Too much cold logic.
Also, blogging – you’re blogging for a wider audience. You want someone to read and to influence one or two people – if not, why are you writing? Poetry – if you’re thinking about your audience, or influencing, or winning prizes, or getting published, then you’re going in the wrong direction. Unless, that is, you’re planning on writing verses for Clinton’s birthday cards.
For poems read stories – short or long. There’s a piece by Lorin Stein, who’s the editor in the Paris Review, in a recent New York Times that I like – the idea of public solitude.
“To write a story also requires public solitude. You can’t be worrying how you sound. You can’t wonder whether you or your characters are likable or smart or interesting. You have to be inside the scene — the tactile world of tables and chairs and sunlight — attending to your characters, people who exist for you in non-virtual reality. This takes weird brain chemistry. …It also takes years of reading — solitary reading.”
But reading is a cocoon – sometimes you do have to hatch out!