I used to write a lot.
I’ve never been too keen on fiction, but I wrote. Creative non-fiction, I guess you could call it. And I wrote poetry. It was beautiful. Well, beautiful to me, anyway. I strung together words I found aesthetically pleasing like an accomplished chef tosses ingredients into a pot to make something delicious. I knew a lot of words back then. It didn’t always make sense, what I wrote, but every so often someone would read one of my pieces and get it, and that was the very best thing in the world.
I wrote for myself.
I told my husband last night that my writing muscles have atrophied. We were sitting outdoors with our coffee, the fire blazing in the chiminea making the front of my legs uncomfortably warm, in an atmosphere that, in another time and place, might have spun a web of words in my mind that I couldn’t help but put down on paper. Now the proverbial wheel doesn’t even begin to turn.
In a few months is the tenth anniversary of my Terrible Mistake. That may seem melodramatic, but if you’ve been asking yourself quietly, “What happened to the poetry?” or “What’s the point of all this?” then the Terrible Mistake is your answer.
January 2015 was the second semester of my junior year of college. It was the semester I took Creative Writing.
It’s a good idea, right? You love to write, so you take a class on it. A chance to grow your skills, to exercise your muscles, to compare notes with your fellow students who fancy themselves Poets, to learn from them, to learn from the expert Professor, to learn everything you are doing wrong.
Art is such a funny thing. There is a right and wrong, but then again, there is no right and wrong. There’s a proper way of doing things, but then again, aren’t most of our most treasured artists are prized for breaking the rules? I don’t think having a class where you learn a good and a bad way to write poetry is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe the professor’s attitude was too myopic, his taste too narrow. He seemed to have a penchant for free verse but not much else. Maybe if I weren’t such an over-sensitive person, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. But somehow, one way or another, the lesson stuck, and I stopped writing.
I am extremely protective of my photography–my chosen outlet–now. I don’t follow any photographers save a handful I know personally and one I find incredibly inspiring. I don’t read how-to’s and I don’t belong to any photography forums. I do my best to perfect my craft while shutting out the elitists, the “you’re-doing-it-wrong”-ers, the Dr. P’s of the world of writing with light. I learned my lesson in the Terrible Mistake.
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critick’s share;
Both must alike from Heav’n derive their light,
Those born to Judge, as well as those to Write.