Confession Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, folks. Time to confess a little something about yourself. You know you want to!

What things do you put off or avoid to feed your creative self?

Jennifer and I have been talking quite regularly about the impulse to create vs. balancing everything else. Does this sound familiar … you’re up late at night or early in the morning writing, revising, making lists, sending out poems, etc. Meanwhile, the household chores go undone. Grocery shopping waits. Bills will get paid tomorrow … all to finish a line or correct a stanza break. I don’t know how we find the time to write, but we do.

Why just this morning as I walked across my crumb-laden kitchen floor, I decided to forgo sweeping to finish this blog post.

Maybe we don’t honor our creative selves enough—or maybe we devote too much time to craft. I’m not sure, because writing is a joyful yet selfish act. I've certainly opted for cooking hot dogs instead of roast chicken for dinner just so I could speed up the nightly routine. The quicker I can get the kids to bed means a few more blessed moments jotting down the next poem.

Jennifer sent this poem by Louise Erdrich to me. Something to think about when deciding what to do with your time.

Advice to Myself

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic--decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

~Louise Erdrich


Anonymous said…
I'm going to copy that poem and put it on my bedroom wall. Sometimes for me it feels like there are competing voices in my head about what I should be doing and sometimes the "guilt" voice wins and I don't do my art because my superego tells me I need to do my chores.
Anonymous said…
Even now last night's dinner dishes are scattered all over the counter -- I just pushed some aside to make coffee.

Thanks, January, I need that poem on my fridge!
Jennifer Jean said…
I have an artist friend who bucks the "Artist" stereotype by being organized. She has certain days for all of her household chores, even for groceries, laundry, laundry folding, and vacuuming her car. Amazing! So sure her house gets messy but she's more guilt free than me because: "It's not Tuesday at 7pm so I don't HAVE to do that." I've toyed with getting this organized... still toying...
SA Livingston said…
Fantastic poem--thanks for posting!

I've been struggling with much the same issues, chores and deadlines vs. really needing to sit down and be creative once in a while. All of the noise and clutter of everyday life makes it more difficult for me to carve out space for writing, so for me doing it needs to be all the more intentional. Glad to hear others' similar experiences.
Anonymous said…
I confessed!
Jessie Carty said…
so glad you shared that poem!

since i've been at home for a few years i do find my writing time a bit of a guilty thing to do so i tend to stop writing and do a bit of housework and such because that is part of my "job" so to speak

will be interesting to see how i balance when the classes i'm teaching start in a few weeks!
January said…
Jessie, good luck with teaching. I bet it will go well, better than you think.
January said…
Pho, great confessions!

And I'm happy to know that you all have enjoyed this poem. Seems as if we're all struggling with a lack of time in our lives.
Heidi G said…
Like a monk practices dialy meditation, I too find contentment in knowing that with each chore I work at, it is most successful while enjoyed and focused upon,in the same light it is my (and mine alone) sole (or 'soul' depending on your approach) responsibility to find the simple choice in doing it. Thank you for sharing this poem. It provided a connection for me once again.
The idea of writing poetry as a "joyous but selfish" act seems right on the money too me. After all, how often does any writer actually share any peace that isn't finished (at least in the form of a first draft) with someone other than when they're looking for editorial advice? If my own experience and perception is indicative of a wider populace at all, then the answer is very rarely. There's just something that seems counter-intuitive and even painful about sharing something of ours we she as "unfinished" or "raw" and aren't satisfied with at least enough to (temporarily) stop adding to it or revising. So we hoard the writing process to ourselves, meaning only we can take joy in it.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, I'd like to point out. I just see at as the root cause behind the symptom you described of neglecting other duties in favor of the creative process. Both the selfishness of the act itself, and its inherent pleasures, but the desire to reach the point where we at least feel comfortable enough to put the finished work on display to a wider audience--and the potential for even greater joy that comes with it. For as great as the joy of writing poetry is in and of itself, it's incomparable--at least in my opinion--to that of sharing it. So that becomes a strong motivation to favor the creative process over all others, as I too can confess to doing, sometimes disproportionately often.

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