When I was 14, I was the world’s greatest poet.
I knew everything there was to know, and my perfectly rhyming, perfectly innocent poems were my star babies. I finished my poetry projects on time and I got an A+ long before anyone else had even submitted their work.
This writing stuff is easy! I’m going to do this for a living!
…and then I met my first love. And loved hard. And broke up.
Solitude used to be my favorite thing, but it became a torture chamber. Depression and loneliness were waiting for me every time I got a second alone.
By sticking to safe subjects and easy formulas, I had mastered absolutely nothing in my earlier years. But hot damn, I had fallen in love with the words themselves.
And so I returned to them.
I crawled around the shores of poetry, littered with words, and started clunking them together over and over again. This shape goes with that one. The sound of this piece stands on its own. This strand feels like falling in love. And this strand feels like being left alone again.
I wrote so many shitty poems over the course of my college years that I went all the way through my awful phase and came out half-decent. My ten thousand hours of writing went down when I was supposed to be writing lesson plans, reading the world’s great works of literature, and doing keg stands a few blocks away.
I learned to process what I was feeling through poetry, and to let words find a way into my wibbly, innermost bits.
Without all those shitty, shitty poems, most of which I never shared with another living soul, I found my way to writing the ones that are worth reading.
You know how it goes.
You want it go perfectly, but you find yourself wasting time and supplies, money and resources. You market the whole thing wrong. You freak out about how much you suck. You spend hours and hours thumbing through Instagram, comparing yourself to others and coming up short. You’re pretty sure you’re never going to make a go of this thing, and the thing itself keeps changing as you approach.
But you keep going. You keep improving, making mistakes as you go.
You throw yourselves onto the shores of whatever it is that calls you and you find a way through.
No safe subjects.
No easy formulas.
We can’t know what will happen when we throw ourselves into the art of making, but we can go exploring together.
Commit to yourself and to the making — whatever it is, words, a website, an event, drawings, paintings, classes, a program, a podcast, WHATEVER it is — and then let yourself do it wrong.
Let yourself clang all the pieces together and make terrible noises,
or assemble the parts in ways that surprise you,
or make shitty shitty art and freak out about how much you suck
before you get up and try again tomorrow.
Because doing it wrong? It’s actually the only way to get it right.
P.S. You can find my book of poetry, All the Selves I Used to Be, here.