Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feeling Writerly

I've been in a poetry drought for a while now. Some of that has to do with thinking about other things (school) and writing about them, but another part of it is not feeling particularly poetic. That sounds foolish. Who feels poetic? Well, I do sometimes, mostly when I'm writing poetry. Still, the phrase doesn't sell. A better term then is "writerly," a word I thought I had invented but which has been around for a while. I define it as "feeling like a writer, living life as a writer, looking at the world as a writer." Or something like that.

I haven't been feeling very writerly even though I've been writing.

Yesterday afternoon, reading a book about writing, I thought, "I should do something to feel more writerly." I was reading the introduction to a book of short-short stories at the time and had an odd thought. It went something like this:

"I should take a headline from an NPR story each day and compose a prose poem based on that title and taken off in some odd direction."

I've been asked, and I have heard published writers say that they are asked all the time, "where do you get your ideas?" It's a perfectly understandable question and also very stupid. The process seems mysterious to the non-writer. It's mysterious to the writer too, but in a very different way. The non-writer sees the whole thing as magical as in something that only happens to select, magical people. The writer understands that it is magic brought about by the habit of pushing a pen across a page and tapping at the keyboard for hours on end.

So where did this idea come from to have poems spring from NPR headlines. Well, I was trying to think about where I could get an idea to feel more writerly. The radio was playing some non-NPR station and I wished it was NPR because they had been telling an interesting story there as I drove in. They often tell good stories, I thought. I could probably just get my ideas from there. What if I scanned the headlines, chose a juicy one and let my brain go off with it somewhere? I can call it "From NPR News"

Voila. There's my idea. It came to me because I wanted an idea and was actively writing my way into one (though I wasn't forming letters on a page or screen at the time).

It may turn out to be a bad idea. Really stupid. A complete disaster.

But probably not.

Things tend to work out when I play with them and keep going. So for the next ten days or so, I'm going to pull a headline or two each day and let it become poetic, see where it takes me, see where I can take myself. There's no real point to other than to get me feeling once again as though I'm a writer. To get that writerly feeling going again.

Or, to put it another way, it's just a way to get me to write on.

You can check out the results here.