When the Well Runs Dry

“Once upon a time there was a man….” No no no.

“Back in 2000, when trees were still green and smartphones didn’t-

*backspace*

“Perhaps the Earth is not round.” *holds down delete button*

Writer’s block. We’ve all been there. You have an idea, or maybe you don’t, but you know something needs to get on the page. You start jotting down lines or typing on your computer and everything that comes out sounds like crud. If you’ve got it really bad nothing comes out at all. Worst feeling a writer can have. There seems to be no cure. It’s easy to give up, close the computer, and move on.

This past spring, I felt like my writing was moving backward. Every time I started writing a poem I either had no clue what I was writing about or how to say it. Feeling unmotivated I trudged through a few drafts per poem, trying to tease out any promise that I could and relying on the comments from my class workshop to do the rest. It was a horrible, horrible rut.

Then, I began to hit my stride. Thoughtfulness and emotion help me to write and there’s been a lot of that in my classes and in my personal life. It helped to focus my poems on more specific ideas. And I’ve also been playing around a lot more with form and structure to see which one I like, to vary the mix a bit. Suddenly, I felt like a poet again. Things were actually sounding like the old me, the part that knows how to write poems.

My professor loaned me a couple of books to read over spring break: Natasha Tretheway’s Native Gaurd and Michael Chitwood’s The Weave Room. I read them, taking note of things each poet does well and risks they take. The process was more than inspirational–it was revelatory. I have more things to think about and ways to experiment with how to say what’s on my mind. I no longer feel like I’m missing words.

Each day I write down thoughts, phrases or, if I’m lucky, entire drafts of poems that come to mind in hopes of having an entire new lineup of material to work with. I’m aiming for a variety of work: short poems, lyric poems, prose poems, sonnets, spoken word poems, and image poems. And last but not least, revising. Revisions make the poem, which is what I learned this past semester and what I’m trying to perfect.

How do you revise? What makes a poem feel finished for you? Leave a comment below and good luck on your next project!