19 January 2007

What a Difference 20 Years Makes

I got several encouraging comments about my poetry yesterday. It was eye-opening because I seemed to get more reaction to the older poem. That made me think about the differences between me as a 20-year-old writer and me as a 40-year-old writer.

Like many young adults, my emotions were very close to the surface when I was in my teens and early 20s. I poured every emotion out onto the page--and everywhere else! With age came wisdom and I have learned how to filter my thoughts more before I speak. The downside of this is that I second-guess myself a lot in my creative pursuits. If you could see how long it takes me to write a simple blog post, you would be amazed. I am constantly recrafting every sentence as I go. The rough draft is a foreign concept to me. I don't know what it is like to complete a work, such as a poem or a short story, and then go back and edit it. By the time I get to the end of a work, I have done so much editing already that I am almost sick of it. As a consequence, I may be editing the most powerful emotions right out of the work.

Another difference is that I view problems differently now. Back then, I thought I would die if I had to live through one more moment of whatever the difficult situation was (dramatic much?). That this-may-be-my-last-day-on-Earth mentality prompted me to write. Maybe I thought I had to leave a body of work behind so I could see myself lauded as a great writer posthumously :-). These days, I still have challenges that make me feel like I can't even get out of bed. However, I don't have the luxury of wallowing with a pen and pad. Children need to be fed and bills need to be paid. Also, I have many more years of experience with this. As soon I start to feel the sturm und drang coming on, the inner dialogue starts--

Emotional: I am so miserable! Look at what a mess I've made of my life!
Rational: Well, there's no use crying about it now. You made your bed, yada yada.
Emotional: My husband doesn't find me attractive any more!
Rational: He's still grabbing your a**, so I seriously doubt that.
Emotional: I just feel so hopeless!
Rational: Here we go again. You felt this way two months' ago, remember? You got over it.

So I ride it out and get over it without any literary therapy. I know that real writers can write any time, but my words flow more easily when I am upset.

What does any of this mean for my writing? I'm not sure. The only thing I know is that I want to tap into the creative side of that 20-year-old again.
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