Drafting: “Fire”

For the time being, my writing day will have to be Friday. I work Monday-Thursday and Saturday, so Friday is my only weekday that I can sit down and be quiet. I’ve never been one to be able to write on weekends.

I am so, so, so grateful that I did sit down this morning and write a poem. I’ve been waking up early everyday this week and reading, so despite a fitful night of sleep, I was ready to get up and write something.

Another myth poem, about Semele, actually, the mother of Dionysus.

It begins,

“I open the door to Zeus,
a man all smoke and fire,
his button-up burning in a wink,
a blackened daisy between his fingers.”

After Semele hooked up with Zeus, Hera, jealous as always, turned herself into a hag and convinced Semele to make Zeus show himself to her in all his glory. No mortal can see Zeus’s breastplate without perishing immediately, so Semele sees it, dies, Zeus gets baby Dionysus and sews him into his thigh so he can go to full term, hence why Dionysus is sometimes called “twice-born” (gotta love that).

The rest of the poem focuses on Zeus’s humanness: how he trips when he follows her up the stairs, how she picks a piece of egg from his beard. This poem is still missing that modern element I like to add to these, but it’s getting there.

The poem petered out early, and I think more needs to be done to develop the relationship and explain or at least point at how Semele dies. Fire is a reoccurring image in it (hence the title for the moment), but if you didn’t know the myth, you may not know that she dies by fire, so I want it to be a little weirder to stand alone more.

I’m waiting for writing to feel easy again, because, right now, it’s wrenchingly hard. Maybe once things settle out, it’ll be easier once again. I’ve also thought about taking a break for a little while to see if that refreshes me. My only worry about that is the break might get longer and longer and/or the coming back might be even harder than it is now. Some of you, I’ve noticed, have taken summer breaks. How has been the transition back into it? Would you recommend one or not?

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10 thoughts on “Drafting: “Fire”

  1. I did the opposite of taking a break this summer–I had the most productive summer, writing-wise, I’ve ever had. But it came after an excruciating winter, where writing was hard all the time–everything was hard. This summer, everything feels easy, and I think it’s connected to the writing. Maybe it’s only now unspooling all of those pent-up winter yarns. But when I’m not writing, it never, ever feels like a “break” (a word I associate with good feelings, with pleasure, with relaxation of some sort). It’s mostly a yawning pit of despair I have to claw my way out of. But I have discovered this summer, too, that I am a creature of habit. Consistency has been all things to me in these past three months. But that consistency wanes–when my schedule gets more complicated, it falls apart, and then the writing falls apart, which means forced “breaks.” Breakages.

    I imagine the effectiveness of taking breaks has a lot to do with personality, habit, and the kind of writing one is doing. My project right now is a novel. It is hard to go into and out of, so breaks are difficult. When I was writing short stories, breaks were easier, at the end of one thing, the start of another, and it felt like I was winding up the next piece in my mind, so when I returned to writing, it could just fly onto the page.

    In all cases, though, I’ve mostly transitioned back in, after breaks from writing, through journaling and blogging, at least making myself scribble something about the day itself, my day, if I had no new fiction percolating. After a few days of that, the ideas started to come back. And, of course, reading favorite poets has always helped me to write again, even though I don’t write poetry. But reading those things makes me remember loving words and sentences and the shapes of things on the page.

    1. Thank you for the incredibly helpful comment!

      I too have never really enjoyed my “breaks”. They have always been in response to a life event or a lack of inspiration (and a lack of inspiration has usually been caused by giving up different aspects of my writing ritual: reading good writing, reading other people’s blogs, etc.). My inner critic beats the hell out of me when I’m not writing, and it’s not loving or enjoyable; it’s someone in my head saying, “Why aren’t you writing? Why aren’t you making time for writing? You could be writing now! Get some paper! Can’t think of anything to write? What’s WRONG with you?”

      Glad to hear that consistency is working for you. It normally does, but lately, consistency hasn’t been the thing helping me. Getting out each new poem is pulling out a tooth. A lot of people relate poems to short stories, but I’m writing a lot of poems that are inter-connected (myth-based), which makes them seem more novel-y, so maybe I do just need to stick around.

      You also make a great point about how to transition back in. Maybe journaling might help my writing feel a little normal again.

      Thanks so much.

  2. Feel you on that one. Had to write a poem for this art show, an ekphrasis, and it was nearly impossible. Luckily I got it done but it felt so difficult to write.

      1. I’ve mostly just been avoiding my manuscript and the re-ordering project that I need to get on. As for the writing I have done since graduation… it’s all for my various jobs, not really for my own work. :/

  3. i took a month or so break after i had a baby, but other than that i don’t like to take a break longer than three weeks–i have a hard time getting back into the rhythm of writing if i’m not sitting down and at least trying to write a little bit, even ten minutes or so, everyday. but i know people who have taken six month breaks and done fabulously, so i think it depends on the writer.

    1. Wow. Only a month? My hats off to you! I know some moms that really struggled getting back after baby.

      I’m starting to realize I’m probably not a writer who can have “breaks” and do well getting back into the swing. We’ll see though.

  4. I have conflicted feelings about breaks. You may come back from a break with energy and focus, or you may not come back at all for many years.

    Between 2005 and 2012, I only wrote 7 poems. I’ve written 10 already in 2012, so I think I’m back. Prior to my long “break,” I wrote a lot. It was really weird for me not to write.

    I started writing poetry when I was 13 (way back in 1987!), and much of it was bad poetry. Just when it was starting to get good in 2005, I quit because of rejections. And maybe because I didn’t have writer friends. It was too easy to push it aside when I had a full-time job doing something else.

    Right now, I have two goals: write, and try to get something in a great journal before I turn 40. Simple.

    It’s great that you’re still writing, but I’m wondering if it’s difficult for you right now because you do need to take a short break. Or maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to define yourself as a writer now that you’ve graduated, so rejections are getting to you more. Graduation does cause identity issues.

  5. I’m just back from a week-long “sabbatical.” I found it so incredibly helpful, not only to get some extra sleep and focus my energies on getting the kids started in school without the constant tug-of-war (mommy time vs. writing time) but also because it helped me gain insight on my current process, my state of mind and emotion about writing, the pressure I put on myself (often unhealthy) etc. So, I really think taking a break was a good thing for me, and I already have my next one planned! Reentry has been a little tough. My morning writing has come a little slower, but it’s also true that I’m not reading anything that has me on fire right now –. Your draft here sounds so interesting — good luck as it grows.

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