Shelley Widhalm

Cluttered Inspiration

In 52 Writing Topics, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on April 14, 2013 at 11:00 am

I’ve let things and clutter get in the way of poetic inspiration and writing discipline.

Two things I let slip: my third revision of my novel, “The Fire Painter,” and my goal to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month.

I wanted to set aside my novel for two weeks after the second revision, which I finished in mid-March, and do another revision before attending a local conference at the end of April.

And I wanted to be a poetic genius able to write sparkly, beautiful poems at my own bidding.

But I guess I don’t work that way, especially when I have clutter in my head and in my life.

When I write poetry, I get this feeling – usually caused by music, a memory or an observation – and have to grab a napkin, receipt or newspaper scrap and start writing. The poem unravels out of something within me, almost uncontrolled except for the words playing off one another and some central idea I begin to grasp as I write.

This method of writing poetry is in direct opposition to how I approach physical stuff.

I have to have everything in my environment, organized, clean and in categories. (I hope I don’t have OCD, but I am admittedly a neat freak).

My neat freak-ness got disrupted.

A family member is moving and some of my stuff is mixed in with hers, plus she has given me boxes and bags of things she thought I might like or could use. I reorganized my pre-existing things to fit and make room for these new things, plus spring cleaned through my own belongings, getting rid of what I no longer wanted or needed.

The result was three boxes of books for trade-in and four boxes of stuff to donate. The cleaning out and getting rid of stuff, while bringing in new stuff, took up my free time and energy, leaving nothing for writing. I needed space, time and inner quiet to write, while time was all I needed for editing.

As I sorted, I got so focused on objects and the stories associated with some of them that I became too close to process those feelings. I didn’t have room for anything else, as if the clutter of my personal life cluttered my mind, leaving no room for anything but thinking about physical things.

I simply let things cause a form of writer’s block.

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