Why I Haven’t Been Writing

I can feel myself wanting to remember my manners.

I can feel myself wanting to remember my manners.

When I write, I write about myself. Even if the poem is about an astronaut, it’s about me. Even if it’s about Harry Houdini, Poland, a prison break, the Zodiac Killer, the poem is about me. And, almost always, me in an intimate relationship.

I’m never embarrassed to reveal things about myself. To share intimate details. I like putting myself down on paper in new ways that allow me to try and understand how I’m connecting (or not connecting ) with the people around me.
But then something happened: I actually connected. For the first time I’m in a real, future-focused, relationship with a man. And I’ve stopped writing.

I find it interesting. For the first time I am acutely aware of how my writing could make someone else feel.

The way I used to write was always safe – the only person I was exploring or exposing or manipulating was myself or men who had already exited my life. When I wrote about myself in a relationship, that relationship had already ended or was on its way to an end. They were about loss. Insecurities. If those men happened to read the poem, good. I wanted them to know I still thought of them. That I hurt. Missed.

But now I can feel myself digging a fast, fresh, hole in the backyard, soil under my fingernails, and I throw my fears in like acorns or stones I don’t want anyone else to see. I don’t want them to be found. I can be a depressive and cynical person. I can have shitty thoughts. I question and doubt everything, especially if it’s good. And now I can tell I want to bury these parts. Like they’re a virus that could spread.

Like most creative types (or most humans) I go through waves of melancholy. I am hard on myself. I want to be doing the best I could be doing and since there’s always room for improvement I often feel frustrated. I feel lost. I feel like I should have my shit together since I’m 27 and have a Master’s degree. But now, this neurosis is now tangled with another person. Someone I love. And I don’t want them to get dragged under, or for us to get dragged under, by my thoughts.

It’s so much easier to unravel on your own.
A string loose on a sweater no one else has to see, I can hold it, cut it close with scissors, try not to move. When someone else is present they may tug on that string. Ask where it’s coming from, why is it loose, how can I help, I love you I love you.

Being in a real relationship has pushed me into new territory. It has pushed me into seeing myself and my poetry through a new lens. At times I can feel myself resisting it, wanting the comfort and familiarity of how I used to function on my own. But I also know that’s slapping growth in the face and I don’t want to be that person. I never expected to find it so difficult to be loved.
I want to be somebody ready for a new day. I want to be a cup of tea in the morning. I want to trust warmth.

If the man who loves me ever worries he’s not creative or interesting enough for me, I would have to tell him to stop. I would tell him I find it interesting that for the first time writing poetry really makes me feel vulnerable. I find it interesting that I finally feel fully conscious of everything I say. Every word means something and the wrong word could be like hail or black ice. I find it interesting that I’ve really cried deep about my family, my grandmother, my anxiety in front of him and yet I’m afraid to cry about us, about how I  worry about car accidents, cancer, affairs, losing our sight, hearing, minds, love, I worry about apathy about plagues about how I can tell my desire to be a writer is tapping on the door of my desire to be “good” in a relationship and I still don’t know what that means. I want to write about us and I still haven’t figured out how. But I find it interesting. What I sometimes want to say in my poetry are things I’ve yet to say out loud. So I don’t write it. And so I don’t write at all. This is how I’m coming to know myself while being loved.






  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    It might just take a while to get perspective on this new experience, or find out how to write from this new place. And it seems like that might be happening now.

  • Katrina says:

    I relate to this post so, so much Cathie. Thank you for articulating it so well.

    I sometimes wonder if any of the drunk writers drank because they thought they weren’t sad enough to write sober. Like writing requires cynicism, which is hard to maintain when you’re happier than usual.

    Do you watch Girls? If you do, I think this season might speak to us a lot (I just watched the season premiere).

    If not, you need to get on that shit right now.

  • Asa Maria says:

    Beautiful, Cathie! And what Katrina said.

  • Karen Maner says:

    I second/fourth that. Cathie, this post wrecked me.

    “A string loose on a sweater no one else has to see, I can hold it, cut it close with scissors, try not to move.”

    “I worry about apathy about plagues about how I can tell my desire to be a writer is tapping on the door of my desire to be ‘good’ in a relationship and I still don’t know what that means.”

    So many lines spoke to me. I’ve had a slightly different experience in that being in a happy, healthy relationship has allowed me to write honestly about my past romantic experiences for the first time. That was territory I didn’t really venture into before, maybe because I didn’t have enough perspective on it, or maybe because putting it on paper made me too aware of my vantage point. But I relate to feeling that there’s more at stake. I think harder about what my writing will mean to someone else, and I worry sometimes about my ability to properly distribute my emotional/creative energies because I feel out of practice.

    It was good to read this. Thanks, Cathie.

  • Write the scary poems!

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