8  Let It Become What It Wants

Lately I’ve been wanting to write poetry, but I’ve been able to get myself to write only fiction (oh yes:  and a few blogs).

More often than not I write nonfiction, but I haven’t felt in the mood for that any more than for poetry.

I’m teaching a poetry course right now, so I should be writing poems to keep myself in the right frame of mind to help the students.  In class, when the students do exercises, I do them, too, and I’ve been able to scare up something pretty quickly that fits the assignment and also has a bit of fun in it.  But I don’t save those:  they’re for practice, and I erase the chalkboard when class has ended.  About a week ago a colleague asked me for a new stanza for an old poem, and I was able to get back into the state of mind of that poem and write something pretty decent right away.  But for starting new poems:  my thoughts just aren’t moving in that direction right now.

I’ve long had this idea about a piece of writing:  we have to let it become what it wants to become.  We may feel in the mood to write a poem, but it may want to come out as a story.  We may want to compose an expository essay, but it may want to take the shape of a one-act play.  It works out better if we let it organically achieve the shape it wants to.  I suspect artists, composers, and choreographers have this issue, too.

Of course, that’s a problem for students.  We tend to ask them for something specific:  an argumentative essay, a brief autobiography, an annotated bibliography, a journal of their responses to readings.  We don’t–because of academic restrictions we often can’t–always consider that, like us, they may feel in the mood to produce something quite different.  And of course professional writers must complete what their editors ask of them, at least if they want to make a living.

But that doesn’t mean the intermediate product must be the final product.  Even something we write for now may yet reshape itself into something else, something better and more complete.  The imagination, I believe, will naturally lend the right form to an idea if we keep at it and let it become.

A friend recently told me:  “When I think of the word blog, your name isn’t the first one that comes to mind for something like that.  It probably isn’t even in the first million.”

I know.  I know.  I’m not a tech savvy type person.  But I’m glad that for now some thoughts are very much wanting to take that shape.

Do you think consciously about form, or does your subconscious take you right where you need to go?