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Project 52 ’11 14: Writer’s Block

April 10, 2011

I can only apologise for how late Project 52 is (again) this week. Due to personal circumstances, I have had little time to sleep or think, let alone write. Sorry if I have been under the radar socially as well; I have had little mind to use social networking sites or text recently. I can’t promise the coming weeks will be any different or indeed put a timescale on when I expect all this to be over with. You’ll have to bear with me in the mean time and have faith that I am dedicated to this cause. I will continue to post every week if it is at all possible. If there are any weeks in which I am unable to post, I will endeavour to make up for the lost posts as the weeks go on.

This week – as the title suggests – I had hit a creativity wall and had no idea of what to write or of even where to begin. By Sunday, which is the day on which I try to post, I had written nothing and nothing was presenting itself to be written about. I perhaps sent less time than I should looking for something to write but then there are only so many hours a week I can dedicate. Luckily I hit up on the idea of taking you through MY writing process. Surely everyone who writes must have a different way of going about it and a different way of getting what they want to say down on paper. When you can think of nothing else to write about, why not write about writing?

In the first year of university I bought some notepads which I thought would be useful for taking notes in lectures and seminars. I never actually used them for that, instead preferring A4 paper, but I have found them useful for jotting thing down; ideas, phrases, rhymes, images – anything which might be used elsewhere or added into something I am already working on. One of these pads lives in my bag which I carry to work everyday so I can jot things down when I am on the train, and one lives by my bedside for sudden inspiration in the night. The rest are spread around the place, such as my desk or on various shelves. I try to keep a poem in one pad so I don’t have to search about endlessly for something that was written down and then put aside.

Sometimes a poem will start off with an idea or a good piece of assonance. Sometimes, when working to a set form such as a sonnet, it is necessary to have the main themes of the poem and maybe some rhyme you would like to try to use and take that as your starting point. (I think I am using formal verse less and less as my writing style develops. I was obsessed with things like meter and rhyme when I was at university but now I am trying to let the language convey my poetry. A lot of what I wanted to say in earlier works was lost by having to edit things heavily to make them fit into a meter or a rhyme scheme. I have the utmost respect for poets both old and new who are able to convey meaningful meaning in set verse forms.) I’ll write down a few sentences or even a verse or two until the page is pretty full. I will sometimes then number what I have written so that it can be put into an order that makes sense.

The next thing I will do is write the poem out several times. I will first get the order right using the numbers on the previous page and then gradually add, delete, expand and contract as I see fit, copying and reading it out each time until there is something I am fairly happy with. But “Art is never finished, only abandoned” after all, and I don’t think my poetry is every truly ended. I always have the feeling someone with more talent could pick it up where I left off and run with it.

Sometimes a poem can be finished in a few days, but there are some which take considerably longer. There are a couple which I am working on at the moment which have been in production for several months and in one case a couple of years. There is something about the poem I have been working on for 2 years which makes it seem like it shouldn’t be hurried. It is based around a real life outing which a friend and I took. The images are still very fresh in my head and I even took the unusual step of writing out the narrative upon several pages in a rather sprawling and free-flowing style so that I will always have something to fall back on if my memory fails me. I come back to it every now and a then to try to add a line or develop a few others. I’d like to think that it will be published as part of Project 52, but I won’t mind if it isn’t. I certainly won’t release it until I am satisfied that it is beyond my powers to improve it.

This post was written in two sittings; on a Friday lunchtime at work and half on Saturday night sat at my computer upstairs. I often find it best to write prose like this – noteless and off-the-cuff – and most of the commentary which accompanies my poems is written in this way. the whole of Project 52 ’11 3: A List was written in one sitting.

Maybe my prose would read better if I spent more time planning it out; maybe my verse would read better if I spent less time planning it out.

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