One day in 2013, after a collage-making frenzy, I looked about my apartment at the tornado of art supplies and considered putting order to the chaos. I wasn’t up to it. I flopped onto the sofa and said aloud to myself, “I’m getting closer to finally being ready to clean my house.” I burst into laughter. Then thought that would make a great title.
I wrote a poem to go with the title. Just let it rip, no overthinking. As it happens, I’ve been a poet ever since I learned to read and have a body of work that spans decades.
Through exploratory play, I wrote several more poems inspired by my giddy mood. A taste:
Juxtaposition Spray worship on those who ache power. Give them rest as they tear through the dawn. Humble breath bleeds the pride, unveils wounds, ossified served with hot sauce and ribs on the lawn.
I published these poems alongside some I had written 10 and 20 years earlier. I called the published collection, I’m Getting Closer to Finally Being Ready to Clean My House. The title cracks me up every time I read it. In part, because seven years later I’m no closer to being ready to clean my house.
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Enjoy the Process. The experience of creating and publishing this book was a milestone in my writing process. It became the high-fun, no-stress template for completing a specific work while playing with it at the same time.
Boundaried Experimentation. If my intent is to finish a chapter in a traditionally structured book, I simply visit the work (like I would a neighborhood friend) and let the moment-by-moment play direct me where I need to go. In other words, I experiment within structure.
The Power of Now. With each interaction I stay present with what is happening right in front of me within the context of that particular engagement. To extend the neighborhood playmate metaphor, I dive into the energy between us when we meet, no rumination about what happened at our last play date.
Deliberate Practice. This conscious approach always allows for discoveries within a specific work and growth in writing craft overall.
Creativity and Structure are Not Mutually Exclusive. They are an interrelated energy developing anew each moment. If we adhere so tightly to an outline or an end goal for a piece of writing and don’t explore possibilities along the way, our writing may not have the juice we’d like. Instead, through play, we can approach our writing with a plan while also enjoying adventures and applying the discoveries that emerge within that plan.
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