Make a mess

I’m a writer and a poet, and I used to give a lot of poetry readings with other friends of mine who are also poets. Invariably, someone would come up and say they liked my poetry (I’m sure the ones who didn’t just didn’t bother to come up.) I remember one woman in particular who approached me and my friend Laurie. She’d seen us read before, and she told us she thought all of our poetry was brilliant. She said she wished she could be like that. She said something about how nothing we wrote was bad.

That was where we had to stop her. It’s nice when people like your poetry, of course. We told her we appreciated her kind words, but we had lots of bad poetry–we just didn’t read it in front of an audience. We’d written plenty of it. Laurie and I have often done writing exercises together, and we always read what we’ve come up with out loud to each other right away. Some of it is wretched. Painfully bad. Simply horrifying. You have to read that stuff out loud sometimes simply to exorcise it from your brain. You have to write that stuff because making a mess is part of the process of creativity–you can’t create magic on the page without experimenting and being willing to throw ideas and words out there and see what works. You have to get down in the muck with the words and wrestle a poem out of them–sometimes you’re lucky and one just leaps at you, but more often you have to play with things until the poem is just right.

It’s also important to get feedback. I write and post at least one haiku a day on my haiku blog, and I don’t have time to let anyone see it first. I know what I’m trying to say but somehow things don’t always come out as I intend, and recently my readers let me know that they were interpreting one of my haiku to say something I don’t believe in. I was grateful for that, and explained what I had meant. I often show writing to trusted friends to get their impressions before sending things off for publication. It helps me to avoid such errors. Writer friends also point out when I’m being lazy or simply just in love with the latest dreck I’ve foisted upon the page. Kind critique has saved many of my readers from work that wasn’t ready to be shared. Blogging doesn’t often allow that luxury, but it’s good practice when time allows.

Play with your words, experiment with your art, make a mess, and then let your creations out into the world and start making something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
244. Write something in a different style than usual or using words given to you by a friend. Experiment with new art materials–go outside your comfort zone and get messy–when you’re satisfied with what you’ve done, start over and make another mess. How did that feel?

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