On Writing, Risking, and Giving It Away

At some point last year, I found myself surrounded by piles of finished and half-finished poems, sitting at a crossroads of sorts.

It was rare for me to be squeezing in this much writing on the edges of my other paid writing work, and I felt lucky. One by one I was harvesting a windfall of autumn fruit, and it was slowly piling up into baskets.

Not all of it was beautiful; some had worm holes right through them, others had grown into odd-looking shapes. But it was all there, mostly edible, piled up around me. And I felt at that moment confronted with a choice: do I simply let it sit here, and risk the chance of it going rancid? Or do I take the risk to give it away?

There is an inherent tension in art – and I’ll speak particularly to writing since it is what I know best. To create a piece of written art – a poem, a book, an essay – is to provide one half of the conversation. The reader (we desperately hope) supplies the other half as they interact with what we have written. And yet in the end, it’s not about us exactly – the piece stands on its own, speaks for itself – hence the desire of many authors to write anonymously or under pen names. We write for connection, not for limelight. Writing that is never given a chance to speak for itself only ends up being one half of a conversation.

This phrase, “give it away,” has come to embody for me the best of the creative life. Am I willing to give away my best, not hoard or hold anything back so that I might say, “Well, that may have been sort of mediocre, but if only they knew what I’ve got hidden up my sleeve”? Am I willing to give away something imperfect, in the hopes that it will spark a small, imperfect thought for someone else? Am I willing to simply be the writer I am today, instead of waiting for how much better I of a writer I might be someday?

Today, this is what I have to give – these words, these poems, strung across the length of a single year, a year I could have never have predicted would be anything like this one. I offer it to you. I hope it can be a companion, a spark, or a beginning of a new conversation.

I hope it helps you wake up to the miracle of your own life, gorgeous and mysterious and wavering over an infinite precipice, a little more.



PS: 100% of the proceeds from my book are going to two great organizations this month! You can learn more here.

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