2016, Archives, December 2016, The MFA Years

A Writer’s New Year’s Resolution

Image: jev55

It’s approaching the end of December and the beginning of the New Year. It’s a time to rejuvenate your bank accounts, eat leftovers with slight remorse, watch the new season of The Bachelor and, of course, make New Years Resolutions. For writers, this could mean a lot of things. For instance, finishing that one book the size of Moby Dick you can never find time to read, sending out your work like a sower hoping something will flourish in the field of publishers, or wanting to have more writing under your belt.

A New Years Resolution requires a change. That is to say—a person needs to make a discerning/meticulous effort in order to see their desired outcome come true. If that weren’t the case, then by golly I’d have my Zac Efron abs while sitting around for the next Star Wars movie to come out. It calls for action, which is always easier said than done.

When thinking about my own writing for next year, I still want to generate work that I’m proud of and to not have new stuff for generating sake. This makes me question the kind of writing I should be doing. Should I be consciously writing poems that push me outside the box and make me uncomfortable? Should my themes differ from what I’m used to writing?

In my first semester of poetry workshop, the last poem we had to write was one that was inspired by a different the aesthetic of a classmate. All of us wanted to do it simply because we always poked fun at each other’s writing styles and subject matter. There’s a writer who has tons of moon/waves references, one who discusses natural disasters, while I somehow always have a corn image placed somewhere in the midst of my poetry. Apparently you can take the boy out of Nebraska but not the Nebraska out of the boy.

The writing exercise at first seemed like there was a little mockery behind it, but when immersed in someone else’s aesthetic, you can see how it can enhance your own work. What’s even more eye opening was how people perceived the writing style someone else possesses. If you never get the chance to try this out, I encourage you to find a fellow writer! Though, it can be awkward since you might feel like you or your partner might not do each other’s work justice.

The product isn’t necessarily the importance of the exercise. Rather the process of writing the poem can demonstrate the potential someone else’s style has. When the class discussed writing the poems, we discovered some of us found it much easier than they originally thought. Their minds were geared differently, which allowed a certain freedom while writing. They felt like they weren’t being judged, because their poem was hiding/masquerading behind the mask of someone else.

To all the people who get in a writing funk (myself included), keep in mind there is no shame in continually writing about an object or theme. If you notice there is a certain infatuation within your work, expand on it. For instance, if turtles are popping up all the time, then do some further research on them. Find a documentary about them. Read some folklore or if there are certain cultures who value the animal, discover what they mean to them. Broaden your vocabulary. This will not only force you to stray away from using similes/metaphors with the same words, but it will also allow you to think of different ways of addressing turtles within your work. You never know, it can be the start to a chapbook or a part of a major collection.

Just remember that your obsession resonates within you for a reason. There is no shame in what you write about, whether it be about the Power Rangers, The Kardashians or, in my case, the vegetable that is corn. Or is it a fruit? Or grain? This is already looking like the beginning of a new poem. Embrace yourself literary world, it’s going to be revolutionary.

There can be a fear associated with the growth of one’s writing, which is always in the back of every writer’s head. These writing phases of what people are obsessed with come and go. I’m sure I am going to have to kiss my corn obsession goodbye at some point. When looking at the portfolio I submitted when applying to MFA programs, I almost cringe every time. Not because I don’t think it’s “good” writing, but rather I wonder what inspired me to write it in the first place. It’s a constant reminder there is an evolution that takes place within one’s work. There is a heartwarming beauty and a weird reassurance to it as well. This innate writing fear lies within us, but the writing prospers as we persevere through it. That will be my writing resolution—to continue persevering through my fear, keep writing about my obsessions, and to learn about other people’s aesthetics that will further enhance my own.

Happy holidays, my dears and happy writing!

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