Writers' Meme

Jilly tagged me for a meme to name my five greatest strengths as a writer. I am also to mention other writers who I like and to tag them--I don’t believe in tagging others so if you want to tag yourself, consider yourself tagged.

My twist on this is the meme—seems only right to talk about what I feel are weaknesses. And while I don’t want to dwell on my literary deficits, it’s good to bring them to light every once in a while.


Dedication: To be a good writer, I have to make time for it in my life no matter what. My work life and home life will always have some stresses, so writing has to rank up there before laundry and cleaning the grout from the bathtub.

Persistence: Not only do I have to keep self-motivating myself (read: not waiting for the Muse), I revise until the poem is the best it can be --usually. And since part of the poetry process includes submitting works for publication, I keep sending my work out despite the many crappy rejections that come my way.

Focus: In addition to self-motivating myself, I have to shut out all distractions and get to that zone where the words start to flow. Not easy to do with young kids around. One of the things I do is attempt to write in all sorts of situations, not just the quiet moments, so a subway station or lobby is as good a place as any to write.

Discovery: There comes a point where I think I've written on all the topics I'll ever write. But a poet has to go deep within the imagination to tap into the untapped self. I call it "the underlife." We have to push the limits of imagination with our words. Language and style are tools writers use to say the things that everyday conversation lacks.

Reinvention: I have to “go there.” I know I'm there when I start to get headaches. And once I get there, I have to stay there until I can’t go any more. In an article on poets.com, Li-Young Lee looks at it this way:

“Beyond species-specific, beyond gender-specific, beyond culture-specific, what kind of poems are your cells writing? What kinds of poems come out of the space that is our bodies?”

Our cells—our selves—constantly write and break down our stories. Are we listening?

And now for the faults, which again I see value in naming but not dwelling on them.


Taking the easy way out: going for clichés, falling back on old tricks instead of challenging myself.

Talking a good game: all writers need to vent. But spending time complaining about writing instead of actually writing is lame.

Not enjoying the journey: Sometimes I think I focus too much on getting published and furthering my career, which causes me to miss out on enjoying the process

Not revising: Rarely is a poem written that doesn’t need a revision. I hate revision.

Living in a bubble: Not reading the works of others, or not communicating with other writers, is a missed opportunity for growth. Case closed.


Kay Cooke said…
An honest helpful account. You are going to make it, I just know. Love the rose! (in your previous post.)
January said…
Thanks CB. It was easier for me to address weaknesses than strenghts. Hmmm ...

Also, I have your book on order! Can't wait for it to arrive.
Anonymous said…
discovery and reinvention - two to live by. I love that Li-Young Lee interview...he's so amazing.
jillypoet said…
Such thoughtful responses, Jan! You will be poet lauriate yet.


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