Sappho’s Gymnasium, Okelle’s Home Office

Walked toward the garden
I had work to show it
then I understood the garden was destroying it
and that I should rest and not water the
shoots but wait until dark to
uncover them

— from Sappho’s Gymnasium (p. 96), poems by Olga Broumas & T Begley. Copper Canyon Press. Port Townsend, Washington. 1994.

The enemy of the writer is not the editor’s rejection letter or the snooty review, nor even the inner critic. The enemy of the writer is the unwashed dishes, the piles of objects waiting to be placed into some kind of other, the unbalanced checkbook, the mismatched socks.

I made a list and checked off most of the things on it. Wrote my morning pages, but the last thing on the list (revise one poem) remains undone. My sacrum is tight and my body aches for action, any sort of action.

I’m writing this post out of desperation and also mulishness. I may not write anything great today — I may not write anything at all, except that I already have.

M and I spoke this weekend and this morning about the narrative that plays in my head over and over again. It goes a little something like this: I have not succeeded as a writer because of thing X, thing Y, thing Z, over which I have no control. I have not succeeded as a writer because I am not worthy. But all these hacks are getting published and winning prizes and selling books and why aren’t I? Because society. Because sexism. Because it’s raining.

The hardest thing in the world is just to sit down and write sometimes. To do the thing one wants to do when so many other much less risky things are clamoring for attention.

The roots don’t need to be watered. They need to be uncovered in darkness. One must learn how to trick the mind into thinking one is stealing time away from something else. Because that is often when the best writing comes.

Tomorrow I go back to work after a week of staycation and a weekend at a wedding in Western Mass. I’m sure this has nothing to do with why I feel this horrid urgency, this sense of being a sham, this sense of failure.

One is also not likely to succeed when one keeps making success a moving target.

Author: Frances Donovan (aka Okelle)

I like poetry, long walks on the beach, and net neutrality. Tending the Garden of Words (www.gardenofwords.com) since 1998.

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