I started out like I always do, with a title, a theme, book sections and a mental picture of the cover art. I wrote 34 poems in 3 weeks led by some kind of creative surge until it stopped. No more flow. I tried reading to regain it, thinking that absorbing the writings of poets would put magic in my pen. Nothing. Not a sentence worth the paper it was written on. My bright idea, dim.
But how could I be shocked? Ideas are for building cities, organising people, fixing broken things. Ideas don’t write poetry. I was trying to pull poetry out of my head when poetry has to be heart led.
And so, I had to start again. File away 34 poems and open a new page. Scrap the title. Narrow down the theme. Forget about layout and design. And then walk beaches. Watch for storms. Water my peace lily until movement alchemized into energy within.
What I’m trying to say is, the book I said I was writing is dead. And if I keep trying to revive it my will to write will die too. It was too heady, too opinionated (gross), all goose, no bumps. I’m going to try again.
Starting over is worth it, not a waste; it is what makes the process interesting. It is the way, the real plan A, and it is needed to prevent us from betraying ourselves. It’s a chance to do things better, experience something different, clean out the clutter and recreate.
If you sense the need to start over, remember these three.
1. Make peace with reality.
I must have tried to save my project a dozen times. I looked at the thin manuscript and thought of all the mornings I rose to write. I wanted my efforts to be more than warm up exercises. That’s ok, because that’s what some humans do. That’s what I always do. Hope against hope. Hold on way too long.
Making peace with reality is hard, however, once I accepted that what I wrote was not right, then I could believe that writing something better was possible. Letting go is empowering. It proves trust.
Trust what? Trust who? Well I guess, it’s about trusting that what you sense is true.
There is a saying, ‘you must let go of the old to grab hold of the new’,’ which feels like a trick if ever you’ve been betrayed, but it is actually completely logical. There is no other way to take something into your hand other than to loosen your grip on what you already hold. Opening up takes trust and practice. Trust in every word and act of love. Practice exposing your palm in wait for what is better.
3. Engage with the ‘over again’
It’s important to realise that starting over may be something you’ll have to engage in several times. This too is ok. Try and then try again, tweaking things as you go, inching towards what you see with the eyes of your heart. Sometimes I write pages and only keep a line or a word. Other times I change little and only editing is needed. Starting over, whether it be a poem or a poetry book, a facet of life or life entirely is normal. Challenging, but normal. Unsettling, but normal. Necessary, but normal and totally fine.
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