Posted by: jeannineatkins | September 12, 2007

Sweet Sometimes-here Serendipity

When I talk to people about writing, I usually stress its slogging nature. I tend to narrow my eyes when people suggest anything that hints of magic. This is me, practical and gritty New Englander, former 4-H girl, former teacher who’d breezily tell a class, “Okay, write a poem. You’ve got ten minutes.” The amazing thing was that they did, and they weren’t all bad.

Plodding works for me, and I tend to mistrust words that don’t come without at least a bit of stamina. But I’m rethinking this strategy as I write some poems, or maybe am just becoming more alert to what was always part of the process. For the past month, my nights have been broken by crying from our old dog who can no longer manage the stairs to come huff near my head. I plod downstairs, give Daphne some attention, and she goes back to sleep. I have misgivings about this routine, but a bit of good that’s come from it is when I’m lying between sleep and wakefulness, instead of focusing on poor-tired-me thoughts, I (try to) direct my mind to the poems I’ve been working on. And sometimes I get a line or two from this semi-conscious state.
Maybe I’m just trying to make the best of things (another theme of the post “Becoming Jane” discussion in the parking lot) but I thought of how in April, when walking the dogs, I break off some barely-budding forsythia branches, stick them in a pitcher of water, and leave them in a closet. Every day or two, if I remember, I add a bit of lukewarm water.

Once a friend who’s a professional gardener came into my kitchen and saw the yellow blooms. She demanded to know my technique, complaining about how she’d tried different rooms, experimented with different amounts of light and various water temperatures, but never succeeded in getting something to flower. Did she try too hard?

Writing verse isn’t as easy as forcing blooms, but can too much knowledge or effort get in the way? Can we sometimes just wait (not easy in itself) for gifts?



  1. Nice post, Jeannine. Does this apply to all writing? Perhaps too much knowledge and effort can get in teh way there too.

  2. Lovely post.
    And it is sometimes very, very difficult waiting for that gift.

  3. Oh, yes, verse, prose, whatever. I think it’s always back and forth — letting loose, reining in…

  4. thank you, and yes, waiting (esp without eating involved) is the worst

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