I often forget what is most important when writing poetry, but this morning as I read Barbara Jane Reyes' blog post, I began to remember. After my book got published, I felt this overwhelming sense of a larger audience that has given me a type of writer's block for these past seven years. It's not that I haven't been writing, but I've been thinking of the finish line, wanting only that, and forgetting that the process is equally important.
When I first began writing in high school, it was for many reasons that had nothing to do with publication. Part of it was that I had a hard time expressing myself verbally, and I needed to revise what I wanted to say before it came out how I wished it to be heard. I suppose another part of it was that I needed to purge certain demons; getting out some of the negativity I had built up inside seemed to help. Later, when I was in college and grad school, I became extremely focused on studying other writers, understanding the choices they made, and trying new techniques in my own work--searching for just the right combination that fit with my subject matter at the time.
Today, I can express myself verbally pretty well, and I hardly have any of that old negativity left in me. I love my life, I like myself, and I love my job, so all that old angst is gone. So, why write? I think I still need to write because of this question that Reyes asks: "Who is out there producing the work that you need in your life?" Although I haven't been reading much new poetry these days, I do hunt around here and there, and I've come to the conclusion that I need to be the one producing that work. There are many writers out there who are writing quality poetry, which to me (right now) means poetry that takes risks and is meaningful to someone other than the writer. However, there are only a handful of living writers that I know of who write poetry that is meaningful to me, in particular. And even so, I have my own stories--stories that are not theirs, stories that only I can write and only I know how to write.