Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thoughts on Bravery and Courage

29º a good deal of sun, little hope for much warmth despite it

I've been thinking lately about bravery and courage when it comes to being a poet. More specifically, I've been wondering if I am brave enough, have courage enough, to really be the best poet I can be. Does becoming the best poet involve taking risks beyond those taken on the page?

Dear Reader, I have a darn good life: a loving partner who supports my work, great friends & family who cheer me on and lift me up, a stable job with a stable income, and a room of my own in which to work. As I've mentioned here before, I have come to terms with my teaching life and found a schedule that allows me to also focus on poetry. It turns out, I write most of my best poems (those that reach a reading audience in some form of print) in the midst of this stability. This has not always been the case.

I fought for what I have now, taking risks and making huge leaps of faith to get here. Is it okay to settle in and simply do the work? As long as I'm aware of the danger of stagnation, will I be able to ward it off?


Kristin said...

Yes, settle in and do the work.

Do not give in to the myths perpetuated by the Edgar Allen Poe school of creativity that says we aren't really creative unless we're passing out drunk in gutters. Do not give in to the myths perpetuated by the Sylvia Plath school of poetry that says we must be tortured and kill ourselves (there's an essay that I have on the brain here: "Stay" by Jennifer Michael Hecht at

Live a long life in quiet stability and be amazed at your productivity. Set a good example for the generations that follow that following an artistic path doesn't have to be destructive or deadly!

(sorry for slipping into bossy, manifesto mode!)


Sandy Longhorn said...

K., sometimes what one needs the most is to be bossed! Thanks. :)

Nancy Devine said...

do not underestimate the value of settling in and simply doing the work. (as you put it)
i think being a poet, having a job, maintaining a family and friends is quite a bit. when i ask myself if i'm doing enough or the right thing, i think about whether or not i'm generative. and if i am, i am satisfied. (generative to me is creating work for my students to learn, writing, gardening... moving things ahead) and being generative is exhausting stuff. if i'm not being generative, that's when i have to stop and think about my life.

Sandy Longhorn said...

N., thanks for chiming in and offering the support. I appreciate you.

Erin said...

My goodness, if you've figured out how to keep a teaching job from completing subsuming your writing time (or writing frame of mind), please share. I am at school from 7:30 until 5:00pm each day and then grade papers or prep for another couple of hours each night.
I'm exhausted most of the time.
Share please, I need some bolstering.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, E., it sounds as if you teach, perhaps, at the K-12 level. I'm fortunate to teach at a community college, but that still means a 5/5 load. I had to make some sacrifices to carve out my writing time. I now teach 2 sections of world lit online, not my preferred method of delivery. My husband teaches high school and I have nothing but awe and admiration for those who teach K - 12...unsung heroes for sure. Unfortunately, I don't have any hidden tips for finding writing time with a 7:30 - 5:00 schedule. Do you get to write in the summer?

Anonymous said...

There's the life, and there's the work. Seems to me one can feed the other, but they are not the same. Don't underestimate the creative value of stability!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, M. !

SuziG said...

I don't think there's ever stagnation as long as we keep reading & writing. Part of writing is finding new perspectives, so as long as you are challenging yourself, then the writing will reflect that. Reading is also part of this challenge. Reading will reveal new risks and I think encourage us to take risks, etc. At least I hope so. I'm not there yet, so I'll let you know in six years. And you let me know too :)

Sandy Longhorn said...

S., it's a date! And thanks for commenting on these posts!