Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inspiration and Motivation

Let’s shake things up a little bit today. We’ve been studying forms for over two weeks now, and I don’t know about you, but my eyes are crossing. Instead, let’s focus on two other important aspects of poetry: motivation and inspiration.

Why write poetry? Why read poetry for that matter? Why the hell should I care?

That’s the crux of any type of writing, the reader wants to know why the hell I should care? Why does this piece of writing warrant my attention more than my spouse/kids/job/house/Ax Men marathon. It’s a legitimate question and one writers should always be asking themselves. Why should my reader care about what I’m writing? How to do I get them emotionally invested and as passionate or interesting in my topic as I am? Because if the reader isn’t interested, especially in this day and age, they’re going to flip to the Xbox or Dirty Jobs on the TiVo faster than the coyote gets smashed by an ACME safe.

Let’s break it down.

First, you, the author, has to care about what you’re writing. If you don’t care, the audience won’t care and that spells coyote hanging out over open space, holding up an OOPS! sign before he plows into the ground, leaving a coyote-shaped imprint for the roadrunner to be-beep! over.

Second, the material can’t matter only to you. For instance, I could write about all my horrible breakups, getting real specific about who, what, where, why, and how. But why would a reader care about that? I’m whining about my own love troubles and, frankly, no one really gives a shit about anything that doesn’t apply to them. The solution? Get over yourself. Ruthlessly mine your own experiences and look for the common thread. Everybody’s been dumped. What’s the universal in that? The pain, the feelings of inadequacy, the tears, rage, etc. So find the things in your interests that everyone’s experienced, connecting your experiences and theirs, to create an emotional link. It sounds easy, when actually it’s quite complicated. There’s no magical formula that I can give you that will instantly create that link between your writing and the reader’s emotions. All I can say is practice. Read voraciously, write extensively, and when you recognize the times where writing tweaks at your heart strings, analyze it intensively and practice implementing it in your own work.

Third, kind of got off track, but getting back to why should I care, if you don’t like poetry, aren’t interested in poetry, would rather have exploratory rectal surgery than sit through the shortest poem ever ("I" by Ghigna, for those who are curious), I’m not sure why you’re reading this in the first place. I’m the first person to admit that I don’t like/don’t understand/don’t have time for poetry. But one thing I’ve learned this month is that poetry has a life all of its own. It’s everywhere. The fundamentals of music are based on rhythm and meter and music, it could be argued, is a major component of the American lifestyle. IPods and MP3 players are everywhere, making personalized playlists portable more than ever before. Essentially, people are carrying poetry with them everywhere. Poetry isn’t just about reading dead white guys; it’s an expression, a protest, an expression of appreciation, an ode, a way of showing love. So yeah, its hard, its tedious at times, it takes away from valuable YouTube time, but I guess my overall point is that people have been making poetry for thousands of years, many religious works began as poems, so poetry is everywhere, in all of us and when we ask why we should care, it’s more of a matter that we already do. The real challenge of poetry is not in finding it, but in taking the time to intelligently pursue it, analyze it, internalize it, and turn it around, let it loose, make it our own.