Saturday, December 11, 2010


Waiting Time

Last night I had a dream that I lost my poetry journal. In the dream, I was absolutely devastated, and no one around me understood why I was so upset. “It’s just words on a page”, they shrugged. “So write some other stuff.” I kept trying to explain (to my waking embarrassment of my dream-pretentiousness), that they weren’t artists; that they didn’t understand that in losing the journal I had lost a part of myself that I could never reconstruct. My inability to get them to understand why I was so grief-stricken over it left me feeling deeply isolated and saddened.

I believe that this dream was about the writer’s block that has once again reared it’s steely, stubborn, silent head. Conventional writing wisdom says that writing is a practice, that a “real” writer sits down and writes every single day, no matter what else is going on or whether or not they feel they have something to say in that moment. I think that something in me has been resistant to that idea for a long time. It’s not the idea of discipline that I’m resisting; it’s something deeper--something about the idea of needing to generate product rather than to be in process.

Everyone knows that fallow times are necessary for the regeneration the soil. Yet it seems that there is no longer a place in this culture for silence, for the fallow times when we are not producing, producing, producing, and doing, doing, doing. I think that my “block” this time has little to do with fear or lack of discipline. I simply feel fallow inside. My intuition is telling me that this is Waiting Time; a time of regeneration and receptivity, a time of being silent and taking in, of quiet processing. I think that this is as valid a part of the process of being a poet as are the times that we are prolific, when words come in a flood that we can’t stop even if we try. Yet I can’t help but feel panicky; to feel that maybe there’s nothing left in me; maybe I really won’t ever write another poem again; that I’ve written all of them that are inside of me and I’m done.

And what if that’s true? Could I be okay with that? If that was all I was ever meant to write, then what’s the harm in letting go completely; it letting that be what it is? What is right action when I really have nothing inside that wants to be said? Do I push through anyway, writing as an intellectual or mental exercise? Do I add to the noise in the world; creating product for the sake of creating product? Or do I embrace the silence and wait to be moved to speak from the inside, from my heart? It's not easy to do the latter when I feel internal and external pressure to have something to show for myself; to prove myself to the culture around me, which doesn't care so much about internal process, but rather what can be produced, processed, and consumed.

So far, I've been using this time to pull together a second chapbook manuscript from what I've produced over the last year and half or so, and to focus on sending out work again. And to remain open to both silence, and spiritually-driven impulses to create.

--Kristen McHenry


Walking Liberty said...

I have learned to love the 'fallow' time....not for itself , but for what comes after. Ok... I like the naps too!

Jo-Ann said...

I hear you, Kristen, especially your line about adding extra noise into the world but, truly, if in your fallow time you create beautiful poems like Manifesto...? imagine if we could all be so creative in idle times.
Only you know the truth about this quiet time but from my perspective ...? Your creativity is like an eager toddler, determined to ignore the rules of naptime.... standing on the bed yelling, I am here whether you think I am tired or not!