Writing Prompt: Do you ever feel like you have nothing new to say? Like it has all been said by others already, so-why-bother? If so--what makes you try to say it anyway?
Often. And oftener. I feel I've written about my father, my eye, my childhood, my heartbreaks, my loss so often, and people are getting tired of reading it. I fear I may be a one-sad-trick pony.
And then I remember Mark Jarman’s poem, "Ground Swell." The surfer boy who validated him out in the big waves, his name lost in those waters, his body returned in a bag from Vietnam. Did Jarman also feel the pressure to “make it new”? What artist doesn’t? He writes:
Yes, I can write about a lot of things
Besides the summer that I turned sixteen.
But that’s my ground swell. I must start
Where things began to happen and I knew it.
He gave himself permission to write from that place where life started to matter, and he was alive inside himself, warm in a wetsuit he peed in, having been acknowledged. Having felt brave. Having understood. That was his ground swell.
I want that kind of bravery and honesty when I write—even if it’s another poem about seeing loss in the empty beach house, someone’s forgotten towels tattered on the line. Even if every essay is actually an apology or a love letter, at its pulse.
I’ve also heard that some subjects haunt you—my father returning from the hunt, something dead with fur covered under a tarp, a distance in his eyes that took days to return home.
Some subjects find you, inhabit you, and then leave. I wrote nothing of losing my eye for years, then it was in the shadow of every ending couplet, first date, and break up. It has not left. She lingers in the corner like a girl eager to hear what’s happening but badly burned and scarred, afraid of what others will see or say or want from her.
These subjects linger because they are a source of wounding and, if we are brave enough, healing—for ourselves and others. That’s why I still write about my eye. It’s how I see everything.
Now over to you. How do you get over the hump of "nothing new to say"? What are your ground swell subjects? Who or what haunts you?
Let me know how it goes. Tag me on social (@proseandposes) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Creative Affirmation: Your voice, your words--not necessary but completely NEEDED.
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