Skip to main content

Working Hard or Hardly Working

The title of this post is one of my grandfather's favorite questions to ask me whenever I see him. And, for my part, I never know how to answer, because I always feel like both; even when I'm working hard, it often feels like everything around me is hardly working. This contrast in feelings extends to my poetry, too.

Here's a funny little piece from The Onion: "Poet Takes Extra 5 Minutes To Vague Up Poem." (Thanks to Joe Felso's Ruminations blog for leading me to this link.)

There are many ways to interpret this comment on poets and their process (including getting defensive), but one is that sometimes poets (myself included) try to rush a poem along. The "Vague Up" process here seems to be referring to "revision." In this example, the poet only takes 5 minutes to revise the poem and appears to do so directly after finishing the piece.

Perhaps as a result of my age, I can often get caught up in trying to produce poems. And often, I don't have to try: I just naturally always love writing. But, just because I'm working hard at cranking poems out does not mean any of those poems are working. Hardly, in fact.

True, I've got a lot of material to work with, but the hard part of writing is chipping away at those fine details. Great poetry may or may not be a pleasure to write, but it should always be a pleasure to read. And that responsibility falls dead on the shoulders of the poet.

I know I've been working very hard at the creation of my poems. However, I think I need to step back and take more than 5 minutes on how I finish my work so that I can eventually feel like my poems are doing more than "hardly working."

*****

This poem by Frank O'Hara also looks at the creative and revision process. Not only is it a good read, but it's also instructional: "Why I Am Not a Painter."

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ignoring Your Characters’ Desires

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ignoring Your Characters’ Desires

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ignoring your characters’ desires.

Listening to Ghosts: 7 Metaphysical Experiments for Writing Support

Listening to Ghosts: 7 Metaphysical Experiments for Writing Support

Author Coco Picard shares 7 different out-of-body writing experiments to help you through the writing process.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dance Time

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dance Time

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters dance.

Convention-al Wisdom: Why I Love Attending Cons as a Writer

Convention-al Wisdom: Why I Love Attending Cons as a Writer

Russell James shares how convention act as more than networking events for writers, but as an opportunity to be face-to-face with your readers, to make new friends, and more.

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Alicia Thompson: On Writing Romance in Isolating Times

Writer Alicia Thompson discusses what she learned about herself in writing her new romance novel, Love in the Time of Serial Killers.

Examples of Hooks for Books

60 Examples of Hooks for Books

This post collects 60 examples of hooks for books. Also called elevator pitches, these book hooks show real-life examples in a variety of writing genres for fiction and nonfiction books.

How To Turn Artifacts and Research Into a Family Memoir

How To Turn Artifacts and Research Into a Family Memoir

A century’s old family heirloom acted as a clue to the past for author Cornelia Maude Spelman. Here, she shares how to turn artifacts and research into a family memoir.

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Miriam Parker: On Writing the Book You Want To Read

Author and publisher Miriam Parker discusses her surprise at writing her new novel, Room and Board.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 622

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a story poem.