Poetry & Prose

What is poetry, if not the expression of ones feelings in a way that ignites feelings in another?

For the longest time, I shied away from poetry.

As a young child I loved words that rhymed. It was like this neat little trick you could play with words. Suddenly, a boring word like ‘style’ became infinitely more magical when paired with ‘smile’. I wrote lots of little poems as a child and enjoyed homework that included writing of almost any kind. But somewhere along the way I lost my nerve in poetry. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, probably sometime in later high school or even university, when ‘Poetry’ became a subject to study, rather than a fun thing to dabble in.

That was until I discovered a world of poetry on social media.

The beauty of social media is that we get the chance to experience words in their most raw and concise form. Poetry is easy to share. Its succinctness lends itself to the limited characters of Twitter, or the visual format of Instagram. Finding inspiration is easy when you know where to look. I find the likes of R.M. Drake, JM Storm and Lang Leav inspire me to not only experiment with short form prose, but to share what I’ve written as well.

By nature, I still prefer to write and read long form fiction, but now that I’ve let go of the academia of poetry I’ve opened myself up to it once again. Allowing me to experiment with words and sentence structure, sounds and rhythm. Words become playful and fun when we strip them back and let the feeling overshadow the meaning.

Now that I’ve been experimenting with poetry I have a far greater appreciation for it. I was recently gifted ‘The Nightingales are Drunk’ by Hafez and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Do you enjoy poetry and if so, is there any you can recommend me to read?

Why I love Big Magic (and you should too)

Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame has copped a lot of flak by way of negative reviews of her books. But, as an artist, this is to be expected. Creativity is subjective, and not everyone digs the same thing, right?

One only needs to scroll through the reviews on Goodreads to note that plenty of people didn’t appreciate Gilbert’s memoir about spending a year abroad in Italy, India and Indonesia. Despite that, she is one of the most famous authors of our time. The book was turned into a movie and Gilbert continues to write and mentor other creatives. Every. Day.

Needless to say, when Gilbert’s non-fiction book, Big Magic came out, I was eager to get stuck into it. Especially since it promised to be filled with sage advice about living a creative life. If she could build such an amazing career being a writer, surely then, this book would have all the answers?

Not surprisingly, plenty of reviewers loathe this book, just like Eat Pray Love. But a negative review has never stopped me from picking up a book I have an interest in. So I pre-ordered it and devoured it in a single sitting (I’m not a fast reader, so take that as a sign that this book is easy to read).

I dog-eared pages of advice I really loved and I left this book in my bedside table drawer, knowing I would come back to it time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing ground-breaking to be said in Big Magic. So if you’re expecting the next Don Quixote, well, you may want to look elsewhere. What it is is a common sense approach to living up to your full creative potential. This doesn’t necessarily have to equate to becoming a world-famous author, poet, artist, singer, etc, it just means doing what makes you happy, making time for the creative aspects of your life and not having such high expectations of yourself, your art, or the people around you. Failure is OK and persistence is key. Also, don’t quit your job to pursue the creative life on a whim, because you’re setting yourself up for bankruptcy. Dah.

Though the book is supposedly targeted at anyone seeking more creativity in their life, I do think it is very much pointed at writers, more so than anyone else. There are a few anecdotes regarding poetry and ice skating, etc, but the crux of the book is really only relatable if you’re in that world of words.  

Some of my favourite snippets include:

“The arts are not a profession, in the manner of regular professions. There is no job security in creativity, and there never will be.” p.106

“Writers are told to write what they know, and all I knew was that I didn’t know very much yet, so I went forth in deliberate search of material… I kept two notebooks in my back pockets – one for my customers’ orders, and the other for my customers’ dialogue… I learned that not only does everybody have a story that would stop your heart, but everybody wants to tell you about it.” p.111

“I like that feature in men – their absurd overconfidence, the way they will casually decide, “Well, I’m 41 percent qualified for this task, so give me the job!” Yes, sometimes the results are disastrous, but sometimes, strangely enough, it works… I only wish more women would risk these same kinds of wild leaps. But I’ve watched too many women do the opposite. I’ve watched far too many brilliant and gifted female creators say, “I am 99.8 percent qualified for this task, but until I master that last smidgen of ability, I will hold myself back, just to be on the safe side.”” p.168

“If the only thing an idea wants is to be made manifest, then why would that idea deliberately harm you, when you are the one who might be able to bring it forth? (Nature provides the seed; man provides the garden; each is grateful for the other’s help.) Is it possible then, that creativity is not fucking with us at all, but that we have been fucking with it?” p.217

Dear reader, I’d love to know, have you read Big Magic, and if so, what did you think?

Welcome to my home

Many months (ahem, years) have gone by since I last blogged. In a former life, I hosted a vegan food blog, The Natural Foodie. I hosted that site for about three years, when I was really into cooking and eating and exploring vegan life. I’m still into all that, but my life has somewhat changed. I started studying towards my Masters of Creative Writing and I had a baby. Things like writing get a little tricky when you welcome an entirely dependent human being into your life.

Besides having a child, I also realised that hosting a food blog was really just a focused way for me to write creatively. It was also what I like to call ‘A Really Good Way to Procrastinate From Writing The Thing I Actually Want To Write’.

Cue, my book.

For near on four years I have been toiling away at this idea for a book in my head. I’ve played the scenes out in my mind when drifting off to sleep. I’ve daydreamed about who the characters are and what their lives are like. I’ve added scenes based on places I’ve traveled, falling in love with the architecture and the people and realising that I just had to find a way to fit them into my fictional world. So, in November of 2014 I finally got down to the business of getting that story out of my head and onto the page. I took part in my first ever NaNoWriMo and was over-the-edge excited to have broken the 50K word count in that one month alone.

By December 2014, I thought I would be tying up the loose ends, wrapping my manuscript up into a neat little bundle and sending it out to all the publishers I could think of in the hopes of getting a traditional publishing deal.

How naive I was.

I did manage to finish the first draft by February 2015, but then I went and decided that I didn’t like it being in third person and decided to rewrite the whole damn thing in first person. In August of 2015 I started my Masters and was afforded my first opportunity to workshop a couple of chapters with my fellow students and course coordinator. Well, that was an eye opener. To say the least.

The feedback was not bad. In fact much of it was quite encouraging. But there’s always room for improvement, and now that I’m looking at my writing in a far more critical light, I’ve both lost a bit of the confidence I had from my first draft, and gained a lot of skills that will be critical to the success of any full length novel I might publish.

So, why am I back blogging if I have a book to write? Well, writing can be a lonely journey, and we writers need a home for our ramblings outside of the confines of our empty offices and laptop screens. This is my writing home.