Wednesday, January 17, 2007

(Bad) Writing Habits

So, after a very brief discussion with my thesis advisor tonight, in which we spoke about writing habits (or in which he mainly talked about a batch of poems I had given him the week before) I started thinking about my own writing habits. First, while this wasn't at all what we discussed, I cannot seem to write without my computer. It is, of course, a dirty habit and one that could get me into trouble should I ever find myself computer-less. But I find the computer very helpful when I write. There is something about the sound of the keyboard clicking like thin wafers of ice that I can't seem to get away from. I've never been fond of the silence one is surrounded by when one writes with only a pen and paper. And speaking of silence, I can't write very well without some sort of noise. Usually it is my TV somewhat quiet in the background, or at least the hum of a muted TV. But I have found that I need my computer for some strange reason. Perhaps it is because I have only been writing (seriously at least, if there is such thing as a serious or not-so-serious writer) for right around 3 years now (in fact, now that I think about it, I was only writing 'seriously' for about a year before I applied to UF for my masters) and during that time, I was never without a computer. I also like to have other poems to read while I write. Something about being influenced, good or bad, by poems helps me to at least start writing, if not to influence me completely through a poem. And being such a young writer, I have a relatively small collection of poems (somewhere around 50 or 60 books), and I use the internet frequently to find poems online to read and think about. Verse Daily and Poetry Daily are, certainly, some great places I like to start, but I also like and its wide assortment of poems read by the authors themselves.

Our conversation (again, using the term loosely -- mostly William just talked) was about how I seem to write for about a week straight, usually producing anywhere from 5-15 and sometimes more poems, and then I can't seem to write at all for at least a week or two or three or four. In that time I might squeeze out one or two poems, but usually not any more. I often read about poets writing everyday, writing at least a poem a day, writing and writing and, yes, writing. And I wonder if that is conducive at all to good poetry. Certainly the poets I read about who write like this are what most would consider 'established' poets. I know that my week-long writing stints seem to produce mediocre work at best, and each poem seems to be in some ways attatched (or seems to stem from) the previous poem/poems. Usually this isn't a thematic connection, but quite often the poems seem too similar in style and sound. I can think of 5 from the last batch of thesis poems I wrote that could very easily, if their themes were more similar, be a series of poems instead of separate poems in themselves. So, I wonder if there is any way to rid myself of these habits, or if there is anyway to keep these habits (I am quite fond of the fact that I can usually produce quite a bit of work in a short period of time) but somehow turn away from the overly-similar feel of the set of poems. William did say that, while this productivity is good and produces good work, when read together, it all seems too similar and could come across as being boring if one were to read these poems collected in a book. And, indeed, I certainly agree with him, and these poems I am writing now will be collected, even if it is only for my thesis. But I just wish I knew a way to get away from making them all so similar. I have been playing around with some new things and styles, but I suppose I should try a little harder. I mean, when will I ever get the chance again to study so closely with and get feedback from such a renowned (even if he is hated so much by other poets) critic?

Another habit I can't seem to stray from is my inability to walk away from a poem until at least the first draft is completed. I sit and I write until something complete (no matter how bad) is on the page. I wish I could write a little toward a poem each day to make something massive and yet still as technical and as good as some of my shorter stuff. Like I said before, I tend to keep to the shorter poems, mainly because of the fact that I can't seem to walk away until something is completely written. I write late (very very late) at night when I should be and don't have too much time, therefore, to write anything substantial. Although I do have one four page poem and one three pager, along with the long series of poems about Memory I am working on (very unsuccesfully right now, I'm afraid). On a similar note about short poems, I did just finish my first one line, one sentence poem. Not sure how good it is, but I kind of like it.


"Poets need not go to Niagara to write about the force of falling water." - Frost