Short fiction has always been my bread and butter. Writing stories was a skill well before I learned to ride a bike or swim. When I watch people, I often imagine what's not happening in front of me. The before and the after of the situation, or what could be. And I love the feeling of capturing all of that in one sitting, which has made attempting novels a challenge because my impulse is to get it all done at once. And who writes 60,000 words in a day or two?
So during my NaNoWriMo planning and execution to help balance lengthy processes I'm not as accustomed to, I've been writing poetry over the past few months. Lots of poetry. Poems on top of poems in the corners of my Lily P. day planner and on the back of my daughter's Thanksgiving hand turkeys. To a wimpy gal like me, it's the equivalent of skydiving. I hold my breath and feel around for the right words. They rush in like breathing and after scattering them on a page I shift and shuffle. And then I get stuck, so I pull a poem from the ones I love...like Andrea Gibson's "Birthday" and I'm able to breathe again and keep editing. Poetry is my perfect antidote to navigating the longer works.
I think back to college and regret not taking more poetry classes, because I had tunnel vision for fiction. I love reading poetry, and I've gladly edited a few folks' chapbooks, but the writing of it felt like cheating on my end game. I wanted to write stories and collections of stories and even a novel that was really a string of stories tacked together in some clever fashion. Plus I wasn't sure if I'd be any good at it. As if speaking fluent French certainly doesn't ensure as easy a time with Mandarin. Too many variables and misconceptions shooed me away.
And then one day I was feeling overwhelmed with motherhood in a way I don't even know how to coherently describe. I was experiencing an insane jealousy over how tireless my own mother had been, and being a single mother placed me firmly in a corner where I just wasn't doing enough. Or so I thought. My daughter, Sophia, as little ones do, grabbed me and hugged me and whispered If I could be a mommy like you, I would be so happy, and I had to write it down. Not in a story or a journal entry but in a poem. The inspiration also coincided with a time when I needed a gift for my mother, so I wrote it and framed it and gave it to her. And because I felt like I'd tapped a beautiful but raw nerve somewhere inside me, I submitted it to a literary journal propelled by parents' writing.
And it was published here.
And soon after I so fell in love with the journal Mothers Always Write that I applied to be an editor and was accepted with open arms. Since then in addition to the fiction I crave, I've been writing poetry, too. And the energy is seeping into all of my writing like discovering a new pen that writes so smoothly you can't put it down. A few summers ago, I forced myself to read a genre I couldn't stand, horror. I plowed through The Shining Girls, Doctor Sleep, and Horns, and I felt my reading dimension expand. Now as I write poetry I feel my creative brain expanding. Two of my poem collections were recently accepted for publication, and I'm working on three others. (And NaNoWriMo, and a few flash fiction pieces, and every other bit of overload we writers often climb into.)
The moral of the story? Write out of your comfort zone. Try new genres. New forms. New mediums even when, especially when, you don't have time or it doesn't fit into your master plan. You won't regret it.
Happy Thanksgiving Eve!
A mother, teacher, and writer who enjoys all good stories and believes in the magic we can make every day by telling them.