The Creative Valley

I am doomed. I cannot stop myself from thinking this despite the fact that I am still on a good pace. The problem was I was on an excellent pace. On the morning of September 1 I had a thought and quickly wrote down a children’s poem about my dog. By the end of the next day I’d written eight or nine additional children’s poems. There are between 30-100 poems in a poetry collection. I’m aiming for around 50. I’m at 25 right now, and in 10 days that doesn’t seem too bad, but the halfway point is where the real struggle begins.

I’m a boxing fan and even though I don’t watch boxing anymore I prefer its metaphors to other sports. In my life I’ve finished two writing projects an published neither. I don’t even know if one still exists. Even though I think it’s on the USB drive in front of me. I should plug it in and find out, but I can do that later. The important thing now is I’m no longer pounding out four to six poems a day. Yesterday I wrote two, the day before one, and today I wrote down a title but have to let the idea marinate for a bit.

I broke down and opened the USB drive. That project was one it. I as right not to publish it, I think. I was a different person then. A person that wrote poems like this.

 I Met an Artist
 
He tells me his opinion of art.
That there’s nothing original
and this is why he scribbles
Shakespearian sonnets on sidewalks
and underpasses in shit.
He saves up bags of his feces and
with frosting tips decorates the
city, reproducing famous works
of long dead poets.
 
He tells me that art is fleeting.
It is meant for a business man to step in,
carry with him to work, and
hours later wonder what’s that smell.
 
He tells me how he watches people
gather to read his work,
impressed by his calligraphy.
“How’d he get it so brown?” They say,
“Nothing like a poem to brighten up the day.”
No one lingers long.
 
He tells me about the time he tried
to use bile for a ballad. He stayed up
drinking hot sauce and salsa to get the perfect color.
He got food poisoning so bad he threw it all up
and forgot his purpose.
 
He tells me how there are no original thoughts.
We may think we have a great idea, but
how do we know it is truly ours, and
this is why he views himself as a ventriloquist
for the voices of a bygone age.
 
He tells me how he tried to write
an original piece once, but
it ended up being quotes from
Three’s Company and M.A.S.H.
 
He tells me real art is unoriginal in thought, fleeting.
Contemporary art is searching for the latest medium,
the deconstruction and reformation of the past.
His dream is an installation where he chisels
David down to a pile of pebbles.

I don’t know how I feel about that. I am a different person now. There is the question of have I grown or simply changed. maybe finally organizing all this together in one file and reading my own words will prompt something in me. Help me through the creative valley. Help me slug it out in the middle rounds and make it to the end. Then reorganize, refit my current project together. The me of seven years ago was a 32 year old dissatisfied with life. A person that felt out of place as if life had passed him by. Now that I’m approaching 40 I sometimes feel that same way, but understand my current writing is more like this.

How to Defeat a Dragon

The best way to defeat a dragon
is never to encounter one.
Dragons rarely leave their realm
and when they do it is most often
to be worshiped and adored.
Dragons bring the rain,
grow our crops,
chase away the sun at twilight,
and reignite the dawn.
Dragons rarely kidnap princesses
or hoard gold.
Those are myths from
childhood tales.
But if a rabid, wayward dragon
gets lose upon the world remember
it is hopeless to fight a dragon
using the tactics of a dragon.
The dragon will seek
to overpower you
with its size
or create a great windstorm
with its wings
or snap you up
with its mighty jaws
or fly up real high and crush you
with its claws
or fly you up real high and drawn you
with a sudden drop
or simply immolate you
with fire from its throat.
When dragons do attack they do so
with malevolent, malicious glee.
In a straight up fight
they will crush you like a flea.
You cannot beat a dragon
with sheer might.
It is best you control the fight.
Your one advantage
is your size.
A dragon’s need to destroy is great.
Keep moving before it’s too late.
When you lead the dragon on the chase
its advantages become few.
Make the dragon react to you.
Lead it in a fancy dance.
Never allowing it the chance
to suffocate you with brutality.
One touch and you are through.
Watch your footwork,
round and round.
Until the dragon is too fatigued
to do anything but
fall down.    

What do you like more? I think I like the current me more. Most of my issues are external. Back in 2013 I viewed internal issues as external. I couldn’t fin my place in the world and blamed the world. In some ways I wasn’t wrong, but in others I was extremely mistaken. Take for instance that unpublished but finished project. Is it anyone’s fault but mine that I didn’t publish it? The tools exist to push it out in the world. It’s not the world’s fault I’ve never been “discovered.” You can’t be found if you’re not out there. I had one poem published in an independent chap-book when I was in college. The payment was five copies of the book. I never tried getting published again. I viewed the choice as full commit to the working world or art. I never realized there could be balance. That life is all about that balance.

Raymond Chandler didn’t publish his first book until he was 50. At times we think if we haven’t “made it” by 25 we might as well give up and settle for the prison of white picket fences. That is definitely how I thought in 2013. I figured myself trapped. Working for a living that I really didn’t want. I thought escaping Northern Virginia would make all my depression and sadness disappear. That it was my location that was keeping me stuck when I never once tried to remove myself from the trap.

Moving did help. Let’s not delude ourselves here, but it helped more in lifting the blinders. I was too unhappy and dissatisfied in Northern Virginia to ever get out of my own way. I couldn’t see the path forward even though it was right in front of me. Nothing I have accomplished in Virginia Beach couldn’t have been done in Northern Virginia. Traffic just really pisses me off.

That’s the thing about the creative valley. It’s the blindfold we put on ourselves. It’s all that nagging self-doubt and impostor syndrome. I know what I am writing now is the best stuff I’ve ever written, an whether I submit it to an agent, publishing company, or self publish it’s success will be determined by my level of action. The second half of this project might be an uphill climb through driving rain, but the only way I don’t make it is if I stop.

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