After months of early-morning starts which saw me either writing new poems, editing poems I already had, or reading them through a hundred times more, always on the lookout for mistakes, developments and new ideas, I have my debut collection, What Remains, wrapped up and available as both an ebook and a hard copy on Amazon. It’s been quite a journey and I’m looking forward with the typical balance of nervousness and excitement to the book’s general reception: it’s something like the feeling I imagine a young parent might get when dropping off their child for the first day of school. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to whatever’s next… So what is next?
Whatever it is I end up moving on to, I know there’s one thing to watch out for in the meantime. After any project like this, there is the risk of complacency, or a lull in productivity. Maybe it’s just me, but now, after all that time editing, culling, designing, processing etc., I can see approaching danger-close, like an old acquaintance you know to be bad news, that lull. Already I miss working on the poems from What Remains but realise that there must come a time to let them go. A poem can be called finished a hundred times and still lack completion, at least to that poem’s creator. It reminds me of some wise words by two beloved poets:
“The mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within … could this influence be durable in its original purity and force, it is impossible to predict the greatness of the result; but when composition begins, inspiration is already on the decline; and the most glorious poetry that has been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conception of the poet.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley
“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” – Paul Valéry
As I’ve discussed in a previous post, all there is for this potential lull – or, dare I utter its name, writer’s block – is to soldier on; to stay prepared for ideas; to go out to meet them; and to never sit back waiting for the next book to just happen: it will never be born without that mental get-up-and-go. The craft needs its deliberate hand, as well as time, belief, attention to detail, and persistence.