The wait

I don’t believe in co-incidences. But I also don’t run away from them. Unable to write much today, I jumped from one tab to another on my browser trying to locate an idea that’d spark and open up my well of thoughts. It almost never works—I often read random things for hours before giving up on finding inspiration. I end up rambling or publishing a quick haiku.

Today, however, as I read through last week’s newsletter from the ACT writers centre (while this week’s newsletter lay open on the next tab), I stopped at this quote.

Waiting for inspiration to write is like standing at the airport waiting for a train - Leigh Michaels

I’ve heard it, or something like it, a hundred times before. It’s the standard advice any writer offers a wannabe. I’ve said it plenty of times too, to myself and to others. 

Waiting for a lightening bolt of inspiration to hit you is like taking the bus south and hoping it goes north. I know because I’ve done them both. Waiting is an excuse not to write. It’s a way to get around the larger fear that encapsulates your being, the uncertain possibility of an outcome you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with. And I think that’s how writer’s block comes about. It’s a reason to avoid seating yourself on that chair and getting work done. That’s what happened to me.

This afternoon, I arrived at my local co-op ready to write. It’s a great co-working space—they sell bulk foods, snacks, and have free artisan (sourdough!) bread. The best part? It’s almost empty after lunch.

And so I propped my laptop on an empty desk, wandered around the shop, bought some onion and sesame seeds, got coffee, nibbled on some bread, read through notes from a panel discussion I attended two days ago, and got distracted at least ten times before the newsletter came as a slap in the face.

The only reason I kept avoiding the blank screen is because I wasn’t sure what to write. And yet, the moment I started, I knew what I’d write. That’s the biggest hurdle most people never cross—they linger at the beginning for too long, and give up just before they discover that a world’s waiting to unravel underneath their fingers.


If you’re interested: Read the full newsletter.

What should poetry be?

Art, creativity, rhyme, rhythm, rule breaking?

Or perhaps… starving artists, writing blocks, free verse, and prose poetry. 

When I think of poetry, I think of moments.

Instances and distances, captured in crisp clean words, sharp as a sword, slicing through inhibitions. Swerving around discomfort, sliding into its oil-smeared language sheath. 

Poetry resounds.

Echoes through chambers, giving voice to gassed creatures, tongueless beings, tortured souls. 

Poetry nurtures.

Comforts the pained, strained, and the maimed. Speaks to innermost feelings, gently, as lathering lotion on sun-scorched skins.

Poetry heals.

Remembers the forgotten, acknowledges slaps and punches that broke the bones.  Respects with solemnity—a bandaid for moving on.

Poetry lives.

Smiles at similes, accidental puns, and misheard metaphors. Thrives in you and me, in sharing of friendship even in darkest of times.

Poetry loves.

Gives a piece of one to another, faithful, unfailing. Opens doors and arms to worlds only believers can imagine.

Poetry… is.


Over the weekend, I attended a poetry festival called Poetry on the Move. One of the panel discussions was what poetry is and what it should be. This is my response, inspired by many interesting thoughts. Some more of my musings from the festival: What’s the value of poetry? and Labels.

Procrastinating

Blank and white
ghostly eyes staring into mine
waiting
questioning
every moment inching towards the fire
as pressure grows
on sweating brows
awaiting that drop
     red hot and blue
the beginning
of a great evolving tale
a masterpiece
in the making
was indeed still in the making

Blank and white
ghostly eyes staring into mine
judging
silently musing
just another day in the mire
my breath rasps
as the eye gasps
expecting a piece
      soft, tender, yet strong
the fruits
of a lifelong struggle
an achievement
much deserved
remains a dream, reality evading

Blank and white
ghostly eyes staring into mine
blinking
minutes passing
falsely assuring in case I tire
for darkness looms
deadline approaches
a story due for tomorrow
      real, gripping, and witty
one off solution
to demeaning poverty
yet endures writer, procrastinating

Artists are sad people

I’ve been living in Canberra for almost two months now. And for a long time, I had trouble believing that I now lived in a first-world country. The main reason is that I grew up in a place where sidewalks are unheard of and pedestrians are more close to the pyre than they are to having priority in the streets. I walked about a kilometre every day to work and every day I grazed whizzing motorcycles, trying hard not to jump at the horns blaring next to my ear.

I don’t mean to sound depressed.

But I was.

It‘s hard not to be. In a society like that, people don’t live—they subsist. Every day is a struggle to get through. There’s always something or another to worry about: bills, rent, school fees, office politics, weak knees, unidentifiable skin allergies, lack of health insurance, yada yada.

And as a blogger, I had so much to talk about. To complain. Things I wished would be better, public services that could’ve existed, footpaths that should’ve been paved, and scowls we could do without.

All these emotions and opinions fed my creativity.

In Canberra, however, I have none of the negative feelings I used to have. For the first time in my life, I don’t have pressing matters chocking my existence, barring my experience of life.

In other words, I have almost nothing to complain about.

That’s scary. Because without something or someone to whine about, I have no writing material. I’ve hit a hurdle, except that this isn’t the dreaded writer’s block.

This is happiness.

Although it’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve for myself, this also terrifies me. Now, unlike before, I don’t have a raging flame fuming my words. Instead, I have to find an impetus elsewhere. I have to work harder to come up with material because my life has nothing newsworthy about it.

Perfect isn’t always good, remember.

When I realised this a week ago, I was anxious at first. Now that life’s plenty of good things, I didn’t know how I‘d sustain as a writer without all the bad things to reflect upon.

Then I understood something big.

So what if all I did today was bussing to the city back? So what if I’m living an ordinary life?

I’m finally free. Free to imagine.

Inspiration

Hear me out, a writer I am
with clues none whatsoever
in an investigation of tales
for when inspiration strikes
it strikes hard as a storm
hurling thoughts all amok
swirling in my own mind
scenarios for a scenic event
of monologues and dialogues
and a criminal plot twist
so moving the loveable crime
with a perfect metaphor
some puns and clever idioms
never one to miss a rhetoric
a character arc so gullible
worthy of a Clooney cameo
whirling on as a tornado
a tale possessing my being
from start to almost the end
a narrative spread as jam
and so smiling I ink my pen
ambitious to impact the world
to tell a story to the masses
of the man who beats them all
letting the first drop drip
I watch mute, feeling destitute
sensing the tornado move
from the edge to the eye
oh, what sudden change
a severe calm in my mind
the once-swirling thoughts
once wailing, now silenced
as the second drop drips
I wait in patience still
alas, the mind’s wiped off
thoughts gone with the wind
blown away just as it’d come
in a flurry—inspiration tornado