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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

and the wheel stops spinning

i was surrounded by a lot of amazing classmates at iowa. some were outstanding poets; others had incredible potential. i thought all of them would publish books, i thought all of them would clear a path for themselves in the writing world.

i find it disheartening that a lot of them have stopped writing. i remember scoffing at marvin bell when he told a group of us that "in ten years most of you will no longer be writing." i thought to myself: not my classmates. not these men and women who spend nights talking craft, who spend mornings arguing the influence of ashbery and graham, who spend afternoons workshopping poems with an awe-inspiring intelligence.

he was right. and i was wrong. so very wrong.

i scrolled down my list of iowa buddies on facebook tonight and realized that many of them never mention writing on their walls, many of them never mention sending out to lit journals, many of them never mention struggling with the muse, etc. in fact, many of them don't even sound like writers anymore. you know what i mean?

why did so many of my classmates stop writing?

did other artistic passions get in the way? did love, family, the pursuit of money demand more and more attention? did the urge to write slowly dissipate? i'm guessing it's a combination of all these things.

this is all so depressing. i better stop here before i shed a few tears. i'm going to log off right now and start work on a new poem.


Justin Evans said...

I have often thought of no longer writing, but I keep coming back to it. It took me quite a while to understand that writing (for me) is not an all or nothing deal. I write, I teach, I watch movies. I am a husband and father with a career. My book may have come out two or three years earlier if I had given up everything else to be a writer, but then if I did that, I would not be a very good person. I may get frustrated, but I have at last come to a place where I accept that I am a writer who doesn't write every day, or cut myself off from everything else non-writing related. Some might say I am not a real writer because it isn't my highest priority, but I say having other things in my life is what makes my writing worthwhile---that I make time for it in spite of everything else going on in my world.

Jeannine said...

You know what's weird? I think low-res programs actually help people learn to carve time for writing into their "real" lives - because the whole time you're in it, you're working and you have your family to deal with or whatever - you're not in a protected space. What do you think? My classmates at Pacific, while they have not become lit stars or anything, are almost all still writing and sending out, even the ones with a lot against them in terms of finances, health, work, etc.

Adam said...

Just because your classmates do not mention writing or lit journal subs and pubs or "struggling with the muse" on Facebook doesn't mean that they have stopped writing. I have an active writing life, but it is not my manner or desire to talk about submitting or publications or my struggles with and/or insights about my work, esp. on Facebook. Many of my friends from my MFA program, whom I know are actively writing and publishing books and publishing in journals, never mention the writing life on Facebook. They post about their relations to their partners and children, the circus that was in town, their dog's appetite for leather belts. Discomfort with pobiz and the "mystery of the muse" and humilty might have more to do with why they don't talk about writing on a social website than the lack of writing itself.

newzoopoet said...

Some really talented folks in my MFA program graduated never to be "heard" from again as writers. Not humility, etc., but really stopped producing poems. Sad to see that kind of talent go away.

Radish King said...

When I was in music school I discovered the same thing. Often the brightest and best were the musicians who finally burned out. Too much work too much stress too much time absorbed by the work.

There is talent, but what art, any art takes is the perverse desire to keep going even when it seems impossible. It's sad but people do just stop writing, especially a few years out of school when they lose that body of support, and sometimes they grow up and decide they don't want to be poets anyway. There are a lot of things that are more fun and less difficult. Like being a pilot or a rodeo clown.

Keep your perverse desire to write intact, Eduardo. It isn't supposed to be easy. It's art.


Steve Fellner said...


Who cares if your Iowa classmates stopped writing? What's the big deal?

So they spent two or three years and now have jobs in completely different fields?

You pathologize them in such unflattering ways. Maybe they just wanted to do other things. Not exactly a criminal act.

(I feel really aggressive today. So excuse my impatience. I need to use your body to direct my mischanneled anger.)