Suffering for art (NOT) and small encouragements

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Back in September, Robert wrote about writing and being sick here. Now it's my turn, after spending three days out of the office with an ongoing upper respiratory infection.

(No, actually, one of those days was because I had an allergic reaction to the Omnicef I was prescribed for my ear infection. Wednesday night I noticed I was developing a lot of discomfort on the right side of my head and throat; up until then, everything had been on the left. Overnight, I kept waking up and thinking, "My throat feels so dry, I can barely swallow." When I got up next morning, I discovered that my throat wasn't dry; it was nearly swollen shut. The base of my tongue was also starting to hurt. I hopped on the Internet and found out that swollen throat and tongue are "serious" side effects of Omnicef that need "immediate medical attention." My doctor called in another prescription, but between all that rigmarole and feeling bad in a completely new way, I just wasn't up to coming in to work, although I was able to complete some important tasks at home. What a bummer of a week, though.)

Robert commented that he finds himself "writing weird, nonsensical poetry" when he's up sick in the middle of the night. He also said, "Writers write--even when they're sick."

Wow, more power to you, Robert. I admire your dedication. I definitely was not in a poetic mood or felt in any way creative. Pain and mucous really kill my muse.

I knew a long time ago I'd never be a great poet once I realized I really didn't want to suffer for my art. (Yeah, that's it--lack of talent had nothing to do with it.) It's not just physical misery that gets in the way. I have a serious clinical depression problem that, fortunately, I'm able to manage with antidepressants most of the time. I don't find anything romantic about the image of the "mad poet" or anything artistically stirring about tales of poets who wrangled with psychological and emotional problems all their lives (and eventually lost out to suicide). Maybe there's a grandeur to all that when you're a young poet who hasn't lived much yet, or a poet trying to write out of an average, everyday life. All I see is anguish, and I have to wonder what the point is if you're in too much pain to enjoy the creative process or to celebrate with even the smallest flame of satisfaction your literary accomplishments.

I don't want to end up with my head in the oven, or locked in a car in the garage with the motor running. (Mediocre poets can meet those ends, too.) I'd like to have a reasonably enjoyable life. If that makes me less of an artist, or no artist at all, so be it. We all make our choices. I've made mine.

In the middle of all the discomfort this week I received an envelope with three certificates from the Ohio Poetry Day contests. I'd won three honorable mentions, which was nice to find out because I'd assumed my results had been a big zilch this year. (I thought I enclosed the SASE for results, but who knows.)

Not that I'm bragging about these small encouragements. The truth is, sending in some last-minute entries to Ohio Poetry Day represents my only poetry submitting activity this year. I guess I'm still capable of putting a few lines together, but I sure don't feel good about myself as a poet these days. Or all that great about my poetry.

Hope this big dose of angst gives you one of those "wow, I'm a lot better than that" feelings. At least my turmoil won't have been for nothing!



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