On his blog, Steven Pressfield has been talking about artistic resistance—those times when we get some feedback and, feeling crushed, discard all comments and suggestions. He compares that resistance to the stages of grief (shock, denial, etc., through acceptance). He also discusses how harmful it can be to resist and reject the feedback.
Read the whole post, but briefly he talks about how important it is to work through our reaction so that we can truly take in that feedback—step back and hear it objectively, look at our manuscripts and see how those comments might affect it.
This works well if you have a trusted reader (he does). But what if you’re receiving those comments from an editor or teacher you don’t know well? What if they rewrite your poem to illustrate what they mean? For me, the rewrite is an especially tricky issue—the result might be brilliant, but what do I do with this, now that it doesn’t even feel like mine anymore?
My strategy: After I step back, take a break and get a little distance, I look for the underlying intent–what is the impulse behind the edits, how can I use it in my own voice? If I know what’s driving the suggestion, I can keep the conversation open, keep working on the poem, and learn new things in the process.
What are your strategies for hearing and using comments and suggestions?
It was time for our annual trip to Lummi Island. This year, celebrating our 20th anniversary! Because of various schedule changes, we were a few weeks early, and so we stayed down the road from our usual cottage, but we still could see the Sound and islands and, in the hazy distance, Canada.
I don’t know what it is about wide water and sky that feeds me, rejuvenates me, but I’m grateful for that feeling—and for it lasting even through the drive down I-5 back home.
Deer and bunnies visited the yard. Eagles circled the snag to the north. We spent time with our friends from the Artisan Wine Gallery on the island, and we enjoyed a phenomenal meal—a meal as a dream—at the Willows. We both kept stopping to say, “Wow, we are lucky to get to come here every year.”
Today, I’m not linking to a poem, but I do have a poem in the upcoming issue of Carve Magazine. In just about every way, the poem is the opposite of the post above, and I wondered about trying to fit both things in—but that’s life, right? Things don’t fit. Our pasts and presents collide. And that’s who we are. If you get a chance, check out the quick Q & A on their blog.
Walking home today, I saw that one of the neighborhood Little Libraries lay in pieces, apparently from a July 4th cherry bomb.
This was the first Little Library that I ever encountered–the little building a wonderful reproduction of the house behind it.
I told the owner (and library host) how sorry I was. She said, “It will be rebuilt.”
That’s what I mean by a good attitude.
She also mentioned that when she spoke with other people about it, they said they’d done similar things in their youth–putting firecrackers in mailboxes. (I was not one of those people–always way too much of a chickenshit.)
Looking at the photo now, I see above the sign’s question the title Presumed Innocent.
For a poem, David Whyte’s The House of Belonging.
Imagine looking out over the port, where orange and white cranes rise like steel dinosaurs above a colorful assortment of shipping containers, the city all around, and the mountains further east.
I took the photo, but it’s on my phone downstairs (or I thought I took it and didn’t click hard enough?), and the booming is just enough to concern the cat, so I don’t want to disrupt him by making any more changes (or moving at all).
But that mountain maritime view is where I was writing, or trying to write, or writing about trying to write. (There’s always reading, so I read.)
Then I helped my daughter fix the food and enjoyed a dinner with family–good times.
For a poem, today I was reading Jenny Johnson’s book In Full Velvet, and here is Summoning the Body That Is Mine When I Shut My Eyes.
Since restarting the Gratitude Journal, I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m grateful for things that I do–I’m actively pursuing what will fill me with thanks. For example, meeting my mom for lunch. Other times, gratitude is mixed with wonder when the universe just hands something down and points my head in that direction. Through this practice, I hoped to become more observant, more open to the world in all its textures—definitely helpful for writing and for being a human being. Here, I hoped to share those brief joys with you.
I guess that today I cheated—I went looking for that moment. Late in the afternoon, I really wanted to see ducklings, so I walked up the hill to the waterlily ponds. I hadn’t seen any ducklings there a few weeks ago, but today, I was the lucky duck!
At first I saw two or three, then five, then nine little fluffs zipping like motorboats among the lily pads. One decided to walk up the ramp, followed by mother duck, who watched closely as he stepped off the board and began to walk along the pool’s cement edge, maybe a foot above the water. Wait? What am I doing up here? After several quick looks and a few paces back and forth, he jumped and plopped down with a tiny splash.
For the poem today, not ducks, but sheep—Sally Fisher’s Here in the Psalm.