Don’t Be Such A Bully

Today’s post comes from The Quotable contributor, Tara Shea Burke. Ms. Burke’s poem, “I Know Nothing,”  appears in Issue 5.


When The Quotable accepted my poem for Issue 5, I was invited to write a quick blog post about anything I could possibly want to say about writing and its processes and emotions, subject matter, the line and word choices in poetry—you get it.  I immediately said yes, thinking of my many passions and theories about writing, poetry, the process of speaking honestly about every aspect of life: sexuality, the body, the mucky swamp that is familial love and DNA.  That was months ago.  I have since finished thesis, completed my MFA and my first year teaching college students, and returned from my second study abroad program to Africa (last summer to South Africa, this summer to Senegal.)  I currently have about 13 open, unfinished documents (barely even begun) on my computer that stare blankly at me every day.  To-do projects, essays, poems, images in one or two lines I’ll eventually include in a poem, and until today, an empty page saved for this post.  Since I’d recently traveled and wrote narrative poems about my experiences, I thought I knew exactly what to blog about: poetry as a form of travel writing.  I was eager to engage with all the possibilities for honest imagery, narrative, and cross-cultural encounters capable in compressed poems and lines.

Sounds interesting, right?  Sounds like I have something I care deeply about to fill 500 words.  Why didn’t I do it?  Why has this been just another tortuous idea on a blank page?  Why did I break into tears in a coffee shop today with a good friend who graduated from my same MFA program 2 years ago?  We were talking about these problems with wanting to write and why we don’t; the huge disconnect between what we know we must do as writers post-MFA, (just sit down and just write) and what I actually end up doing with my life to cope with the anxiety of ideas and images unwritten: drink wine, wait tables, worry, make semi-decent beaded necklaces to steady the hands, watch reruns of Gilmore Girls and other embarrassing, yet comforting television dramas, open new Word documents and begin new lists that I never complete and rarely begin.  Why?  Because I don’t want to admit that I’m living a cliché: I am my own worst enemy.  I’m terribly mean to myself.  A bully, really.  And forgiveness is the simple cure.

It seems easy.  Be nice to yourself.  Accept the way things are.  Forgive your bad days. It’s only been a little over a month since my thesis was accepted and bound (and what an accomplishment I forget to revel in) and not writing is sometimes what writers do too.  If I forgive myself and accept that all the cleaning and beading is a form of pre-writing, that all the decompressing and emotional roller coasters post-MFA are normal and worth it if I don’t jump out mid-ride, then maybe forgiveness is possible. Maybe I’ll find space in my heart to breathe, move forward, and write.   I came home today after a quick cry over coffee and a long conversation with someone who gets it, and wrote this blog.  Maybe now I’ll delve into a draft of a poem on my list, maybe not.  Either way, it’s okay.  Back up, bully.