I had myself a nice and quiet New Year’s Eve this time around. This was largely due to my desire for a symbolic introduction into the New Year, and in small part, to the giant hangover I had from going out the night before. I woke up New Year’s Eve day still slightly drunk from the one glass of white wine, two glasses of red, one tall Stella Artois beer, and two…ugh…lemondrop shots I’d had the night before. I opened my eyes to find crackers on the nightstand table, make-up shmeared all over my face, naked from the waist up, above the covers, with my boots still on. My sweet dog was lying on the floor in the living room, as far away from me as she could get. I found that I’d drunk-dialed a few people and had somehow obtained a tennis ball-sized bruise on my right calf of mysterious origins. Awesome.
In all seriousness, I had made some New Year’s Eve plans with friends, but when 10 pm rolled around and I still hadn’t washed the previous night’s hangover-filth off of myself, I figured it would be better just to stay put, cook something yummy, snuggle with my dog, and zone out to some good Discovery Health Channel shows. After watching a program about ghosts and psychics, I suddenly had an urge I haven’t felt enough lately: I felt like writing a poem.
I’ve been so caught up exploring genres outside of what I’ve been trained in, that I haven’t spent nearly enough of my writing time working on poetry lately. But on New Year’s Eve I turned off the TV, grabbed a pen and wrote a whole poem, start to finish. It felt like…well, like returning home after years spent away at college. I believe that it is good practice to stretch and reach outside of what has become comfortable and familiar to me in my writing; full-length fiction scares me as much as it excites me and tempts me, so that I know I must plow ahead even though most of the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. However, getting back to my poetry roots felt warm and soothing, and I went to sleep afterwards feeling proud and happy for the first time in a while.
Talking to my dear friend and fellow writer about this, he said “If you just focus on the novel and let that consume your creativity, you become quicker to get stuck in a rut. Working on little side projects enables you to catch your breath with regards to the novel while also getting some real work done. And poetry, being your safe zone, provides reassurance and a boost in confidence amid the exploration of uncharted territory. I’d make a habit of it if I were you.”
He was right. Taking a breather–albeit a quick one–from my constantly-overwhelming novel was good medicine for me. Poetry is my worn-thin security blanket, my melted cheddar cheese on an English muffin, my long hot bath after a cold and rainy bike ride. After struggling and doubting myself at every word with the novel, breaking my lines and using the sparseness of a single page to tell a story was something I knew I could do well, and that quick boost of confidence kept me working for a solid four nights afterward.
Right now, I have work to do. I need to grow and change and experiment as a writer. If I don’t keep pushing and trying new things, I’ll get all stale and crusty in my creative work, and I won’t let that happen. Even though it’s unbelievably daunting and frightening to start from scratch in a totally foreign genre, I know that trying new things as an artist is incredibly important, however un-fun it might be. Still, it’s pretty damn comforting to know that my fist love will be there waiting for me when I finish and decide to return back to home base for a while.