Discussion #17: The Rough Patches

Last week we discussed Voice: where does it come from and are there ways and means of developing it. I am going to dip back into some of the ideas you discussed the week before. Margo brought up the idea that several people are seemingly having a rough time of late. I happen to be one of them. Discussion topic, this week, is where do you go and what do you do when you hit those rough patches? Do you quit writing because it simply gets difficult to do? Do you have places you go for inspiration, and do they work for you? How well do they work? How do you define a rough patch? Does it mean you find you can’t write, or simply want to explore other things and give the pen a rest for a while?

Years ago, I decided that I would write everyday. I continue to do that in my journal and often write about how hard it is to write, to find words, or the energy to construct a poem that at least has something to offer and doesn’t just lie there on the paper moaning and groaning, or demanding that I put it out of its misery.

When I first started on the prompt circuit, I have to confess, I was very intense about it and was often doing a prompt a day. That’s a lot of writing, and I kept it up for months. At the present time, I do my journal, a daily observation online, this discussion blog, the wordle, and the week in review.

But, although it started out as a lack of drive to continue writing in such a hectic fashion, it has become something else. I have developed new interests and am giving them space in my existence. One is photography and the other is pen and ink sketching, or doodles. I am pretty sure I will never quit writing altogether. It’s simply a part of my being and my identity. And I like the balance I find between the writing and the non-writing activities. They feed and fuel one another. I find that they are all forms of active meditation, and bring their own nurture to the overall process.

So, what do you do when you hit a rough patch? One of my solutions is to speak to others who write. This blog, hopefully fulfills that element. Now, it’s your turn.


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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11 Responses to Discussion #17: The Rough Patches

  1. neil reid says:

    Rough patches. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in wanting to write. I believe in not wanting to write. I don’t so much choose which is in my palm for the moment, but just do whichever is. I do have a commitment to writing; I believe in that. I trust that. If I don’t write today, I will tomorrow or the day after or after that. I prefer not to force my writing – that neither seems to work nor interests me. It was however a lesson learned not to beat myself up those days when I don’t want to write.

    A lot has to do with how connected I am with the world around me. That matters more than my moods.

    When I am interactive – reading books, talking with people, observing life – then both something to write and the desire, they just arrive without efforting. When I’m more closed in, tired, judgmental, cranky, absorbed in some problem or another, wanna be left alone – then I don’t write. Simple huh?

    Then again I’m easy to please. I write slowly in terms of “production”, doing well if I write one or two poems a week. (Some others seem like lightning, but that’s not me.) Most poems I write may take one to three days of my attention, then it’s time to move on (for better or worse). Some say they are “simmering” when not writing; don’t know if that’s so for me. I may simmer inside a poem but probably not outside of one. It is more like meditation to me, and meditation is not a matter of ability but willingness. It helps to allow that sometimes I am not willing to write, that I don’t wanna – so don’t. (Someone said, faith includes even doubt. Doesn’t that apply?) I don’t regard that as some kind of failure any more than the tide for going out.

    I can’t or don’t or won’t think myself into a poem. Thinking like that makes mud, makes lies for me. Listening has a chance of honesty and worthiness. Of course in writing I pay attention, look for places where a better word or phrase may better express the intent, but that’s not like “planning ahead” exactly what I want to do.

    I like being on friendly terms with the poems I write. And we both at times have our days apart – just rightly and naturally so.

    There was a painting I once viewed. It was titled disagreement. Two men, brothers perhaps, sat back to back, each leaning up against the same single tree. Disagreement because they each faced away from the other, yet what I also noticed was their mutually shared tree, and that in the final note there still remained connection and unity. So write vs don’t-write, it feels the same to me, just two faces of one intent, the intent to express and write. No more than breathing out and breathing in – and I think we sometimes make too much fuss about the don’t-writing part. Patience will honor true intent. If you want to write – you will. Don’t even matter what. Write poems, write letters, scribble words with a blindfold on, write a dinner menu, a sign for the birds to read from above – it’s all good.


  2. The Lost Poet says:

    Most of my rough patches are interruptions. I’m not one who can sit in a café or a park and write. All those years as a cop trained me to be aware of what’s going on around me. When people are present, I watch people.

    At home, I write in the ‘computer room.’ Sandy and I have computer tables set up side by side. She does her thing and I do mine. That works for me unless I get a phone call or Sandy asks me something requiring a response. When I’m writing (prose or poetry) I’m totally immersed in the place or thing I’m writing about. I can shut out almost anything else except someone calling my name. Then, it is like the alarm going off in the middle of a dream. I’m jolted out of the reality of my writing and the mood, or even the whole theme dissolves. Often, I can’t re-find that transient frame of mind so I end up saving whatever I had already written and try to pick it up another day.

  3. pmwanken says:

    Oh, the wisdom in your words Neil and Elizabeth….that’s why I keep coming back here.

    Every job I’ve had, I’ve felt like I have had to do it a full year before I really felt like I “knew” my job.By that point, I’ve usually had the opportunity to do everything at least once.

    Not that there’s a list of things i would need to “check off” when it comes to writing, I believe this rule of thumb applies to my writing journey, as well. And in four days, I will come to the first anniversary of the day i wrote my first ever poem (as an adult). It’s still a few weeks before I hit the anniversary of starting my blog.

    In this past year I have done a variety of things…I’ve written “ponderings” (just the stuff I’m thinking about), unprompted poems, prompted poems, a Poem-a-Day challenge, small stones…and I have had moments that I didn’t know if I would keep writing.

    Those times when the words have not wanted to come, I haven’t forced them. But it did make me wonder if they’d return. I also had a life circumstance change that made me wonder if I would lose my writing. And there have been times when the “poetry circuit” had a dizzying effect on me and I just needed to stand still a second. In all of those times, I had two places where I turned: the first, the place I go with all my thoughts — at the feet of my Creator; the second, this incredible writing community! The wisdom and insight from people like Mike, margo, ViV, and Richard; everyone here at this discussion site. and the countless people who visit my blog and pause long enough to leave some words for me.

    I still have so much to learn and to develop in my writing. But I have come to understand the feeling of when a word or words won’t let go and demand to be written. And I have come to accept that it is OK if I don’t feel like writing today (it does NOT mean I will never write again). And I have come to the realization that whether I am writing today or not–I AM a writer. That cannot be taken away, and it will not just go away.

    As I said from the outset…the wisdom from the words shared by those who have been doing this longer than I…invaluable to me. And because of it, I know I will have a different perspective on those times yet to come that present themselves as a “rough patch.” However, I am human. And we sometimes need reminders. So….it is to folks like those of you here in this forum that I will turn for help. And I know I’ll either get a hug or a kick in the pants. Or both. And I thank you.

    ~ Paula

  4. Elizabeth, rough patches, well I maybe very well experiencing one. However, I don’t believe in writer’s block as Neil said himself. For myself, I write every day and while I don’t participate on prompt sites like before, much of that is due to time, and actually formulating the poem itself. So, I accumulate thoughts in my journal. Unlike Mike, I can write most anywhere. My favourite places are on the bus or in the parks. Living a foreign country has its advantages, i.e. the people have no idea what I am writing. I watch everything and jot down how it makes me feel. While, much of this writing is never actually born into a poem. It does keep me active.

    p.s. sorry for the rhyme there Mike 🙂 it was purely unintentional.

  5. Irene says:

    I don’t have writer’s block. Not really. Of course the words can’t be forced. But unlike Neil, who doesn’t simmer outside a poem, but inside, I simmer outside of poems. I sort of gather all the bits and pieces of the environment, whether it be real life experiences, observations, or a movie, or a book, and I make that into a stew. Then usually I do get a stew. It’s not exact. Like cooking it’s depends so much on heat, or a pinch of this and that, so you don’t get to replicate exactness. But I hope what tumbles out count as a personal expression. Some sort of personal signature.

    Elizabeth I do believe in writing poems. All the other non-writing activities can also be fuel. Although I do feel like I like doodles on my iphone, and I could end up doing doodles more than poems. That would be so unbalanced. The best thing would be to have both words and doodles. That’s perhaps a goal I should have.

  6. Mike Patrick says:

    Okay, I’m having another type of rough patch. Every time I begin to write to a prompt lately, my writing wants to turn into something between a short story and a novel, and it’s prose, all prose. The only thing I’ve been able to post was The Hollywood Tower Hotel, and it was over 500 words of prose before I was able to cut it off. Several others have been longer with no end in sight. They have turned into solid chapters for a books. What’s up with that?

    In the back of my mind, the thought of going back and editing a novel from about three years ago had been haunting me. Thanks to what I’ve learned editing poetry, I’m pretty sure I could turn it into something marketable, but that would mean leaving poetry for an extended period. I don’t want to do that . . . . I was going to say because I enjoy writing poetry too much, but for the last week or so, that hasn’t been happening.

    There are rough patches and rough patches. This one is starting to wear on me.

    • pmwanken says:

      Mike – perhaps you’re gearing up for National Novel Writing Month. Take the month and write a new novel…just see where it takes you! We can all be your poetic cheerleaders!

      🙂 Paula

  7. margo roby says:

    Mike, I agree with Paula. We all need breaks from whatever receives the intensity of our focus. Take the month off. I promise you when your brain wants to write poetry again it will hijack you just as the prose part of it has done. The poetry hasn’t gone away. It’s hibernating.

    After much cogitating on my rough patches [one right now] I think Neil has it: it’s want to write, don’t want to write. I had never thought of it that way. Hard to make the brain do what it doesn’t want to do.

    I love Irene’s “I sort of gather all the bits and pieces of the environment, whether it be real life experiences, observations, or a movie, or a book, and I make that into a stew.” That is my method of collecting, but I am not seeing the ingredients at the moment.

    One reason is that I am working on family genealogy and I have never learned how to divide myself. I throw myself at things about 150% and that becomes a problem for anything else that might need doing. I would like to balance my interests a little more so that poetry has space.

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