Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 27, 2011

Pauses and Gifts

A few women sat on the floor near the dollhouse and horse-rocker in the library. I overheard a bit of their conversation, broken by comments tossed to children investigating books and stuffed animals. Most words were of the traffic control kind. Stop right there. That’s too far. Get back here. Then the women turned back to each other, with at least one eye on the children.

So many conversations get broken. Such as the ones we make between our minds and the page. In this case, we don’t mind if someone runs off too far, gets into trouble. We’re writers, not moms or other caretakers, and don’t have to protect.

Still, it’s rare we have a chat or write dialogue that moves straight ahead. Sometimes I wish I were that kind of fluid writer, who didn’t have to backtrack and draw arrows and stumble into a plot. This is probably as futile as wishing to be a foot taller or shorter. Our methods are who we are. And I realize that while I deal with a certain amount of scaffolding in my work, the givens of history, the poetry happens in the spaces between those gifts. Those pauses where I don’t have a clue what to write? They leave room for poetry. If I wait them out, that’s often when two strange images collide. When an unexpected word flutters by. When I notice the way the parallel conversations of mothers in the children’s room make a sort of song.



  1. I love this. So true, so true.

  2. Your post reminds me of the quote from Thomas Mann, “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” This quote, and those moments when “an unexpected word flutters by,” encourage me!

  3. Thanks, Jo!

  4. I’m glad you see that as an encouraging quote! Waiting is one of the difficulties for sure. But I agree it is worth it!

  5. I would suggest that dialogue that goes straight ahead, without those “broken places,” may even be less interesting!

  6. great imagery!
    I want to linger in a library room that has a dollhouse and a horse-rocker. And I want to listen for the song beneath the ordinary.

  7. Thanks, Jenn!

  8. Re: great imagery!
    There’s a fireplace with stuffed animals on the mantelpiece, too! And the librarians know me from when my daughter was little. A charmed place.
    I know you often hear the song beneath the ordinary, Melodye.

  9. This post is a poem, Jeannine. So beautifully said. So true.

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