I have been writing more poetry of late. Scribbling in my journal between reading Sandra Boynton books and washing dishes. It has felt good to write after such a long break, though, to borrow from Winnie-the-Pooh, I am very Out of Practice. Here’s a short one I came across today while rereading entries from last week — I think it very much describes why there has been such along absence of poetry in my life.
Kids don’t care
if you’re a poet.
They want a
or someone to wipe their nose.
I remember showing a friend some of my poems in college, and having him remark, “These are poems? I thought poems had to rhyme.” It was strange for me, too — a Meyers-briggs J who likes to be able to define things — to know that most anything could be a poem. How, then, can you know whether you’re a good poet or not?
I’ve been doing lots of thinking recently about what it means to be a writer, and I had a revelatory conversation with Bryan about it a few weeks ago. I didn’t fully understand, until recently, how much success has driven me in life. I think I defined success more in terms of making money, and so gaining the approval of teachers, coaches, parents, friends didn’t really fit into that category for me. Even from a young age, success as approval has motivated me to do well in my endeavors, and they didn’t really seem worth my time if I couldn’t gain approval in them. Or if I knew I wasn’t good enough at something to get a “Good job!” from it, then I wouldn’t even attempt it — how fearful and cowardly! But I was only a kid then, and at least now I am learning to see things as they really are. And it wasn’t until I reopened this writing life issue that it became clear how much I craved approval in that way: if I were to really pursue writing, wouldn’t that mean I would need to pursue publishing? And if being published were my pursuit, then writing wasn’t really the point anymore, was it? And if being recognized/published/told by others that I was indeed a writer was my way of finding identity in it, then who could ever stop the madness of approval-seeking? I spent days thinking about these things, and they were dark days. I could visualize myself entering that literary culture, godless as it is, and being sucked up and away into my ideas, my writing, my place in the world, my, me, MINE! I left my vision with shuddering fear and begged God to keep me out of favor with the world: don’t give me that, its not what I really want, I don’t feel safe there. (*)
No, no — I must write for Jesus, despite the cliche sound of it. I want to learn to write because I have need of it, because it helps me understand my circumstances and the world, because it helps me see God. Perhaps one day, God will give me something important to say, but I am still awaiting that day — and it may never come, as I’m beginning to understand. Regardless, I will write. God will teach me to find joy in it, just as it is.
(*) As a postscript, I need to say that I don’t think the world of publishing or literature to be anymore godless than the world itself — and that I don’t view those who seek to or have succeeded at publishing books as self-promoting ogres. I know that not everyone is subject to the same faults as myself, though we all struggle with something. (There are discussions to be had on how to remain humble in the midst of success, in all realms.) I just mean to say that I am not at a point where I think my faith would survive, should I throw myself into the post-modern literary world, where Christ as He’s been (unfortunately) made known is not welcome. That takes a stronger person than I at this current stage, and I should think my vision was sufficient to display that to me. Again, I’m not saying that anyone with another opinion or experience is godless! Please don’t misread me.