Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Summer of My Content: Random Thoughts on Happiness and Creativity

It’s been a while since I have put anything on my blog. That reflects, in part, some recovery from the month of Oulipost as well as the vagaries of the summer cycle of work and play. I have had a large clump of revise-and-resubmit requests on my academic work; and my better half and I have been traveling and just spending more time together. My running is getting more consistent, and I am just all-around busy. But that’s not the only reason the writing has taken a back seat. To be honest, I have gone through patches of far more productive writing when I have been far busier in real life.  And far more stressed.

 The novel is in stasis. The story in my head hasn’t moved forward from where it is, several chapters ahead of where it is on paper. Poems are coming out roughly once every three weeks.

 A friend asked me if I write love poems. The answer is in general no; certainly not poems that anybody would call love poems. I can only speak for myself, but it’s tough to write happy poems that aren’t incredibly embarrassing. I don’t think I am alone here. I recently read a journal that was a collection of poems about parenthood (NOT the surprisingly good fatherhood anthology). What struck me about the poems was how many were just awful. Page after page of what boiled down to “My child is a precious gift”, “I love my child” and/or, at best, “being  a parent is a lot of responsibility.” They were all like having a conversation on the elevator with an excessively friendly stranger. There’s probably something original that could be written on those themes, but I can’t think of what it might be.  So love poems? Not so much. It’s not just that I have been relatively lucky in that department; it’s that I’ve been really blessed and most of my regrets involve things I’ve done, not done to me. Guilt-riddled writing seems even more depressing than love-struck writing.  I don’t do either well, and I suspect most people don’t either. Love poems often seem like things best kept to oneself.

That seems to be true of “happy” poems more generally. When I look back at what I wrote as a teenager, the really embarrassing stuff that wasn’t all just angst plopped onto the page, was all various odes to love. A few were angsty odes to love, which may be worse.

I originally started writing seriously as a way of working through some bad things that had happened. Once I could get past the initial output of self-pity, some of the things that came out were things I could be proud of. Even now, the stuff I write that I feel the best about are all about dealing with some fundamental and ultimately sad and/or disappointing facts of life. Other people can do whimsical or humorous and God bless them, but that is not me. My recent experiences with Oulipost loosened things up a little bit in that direction, but “lighthearted” is a difficult thing to force if it’s not coming. It happens, and I’m glad when it does, but I can’t count on that (and probably shouldn’t).

All of this is a long way of saying things are pretty good these days, and that may not be great for my writing. These things also come in cycles, and I am about to embark on some anxiety producing projects that are likely to bring me back down to my not-so-happy place.  In the meantime, I’m carving out time to write and hoping for something like the best.