Let That Be Enough

Today’s guest post is by Adam Cooper, whose poems “The Sage on His Mountain” and “Backbone” appear in Issue 13 of The Quotable.

I would never call myself a writer: I simply don’t write enough to warrant the title.  Although I’ve been writing off and on since High School, a couple decades now, I rarely produce more than five pages of material per year.  My inherent sluggishness, as well as persistent repetitive strain injuries which make typing difficult, mean I have tended to focus on abbreviated forms; mainly short stories and, more recently, poetry.

It’s true, however, that for a long time I refused to read, let alone write, poetry.  As a smug teenager, I offhandedly sided with Nietzsche, who claimed that “pain makes hens and poets cackle.”  I still don’t completely disagree.  Yet eventually I learned that words are not just building blocks for larger narratives or stories.  Sometimes moments and impressions do not necessarily connect to anything else: they exist by themselves, and defy assimilation.  The words can be there to mark the passage of something, and it’s not always clear what went by.

Of course, personally, writing poetry can sometimes be a means of justifying laziness, often for the same reasons. Anyone can slap a few pregnant words together and call the result a “poem.” For me, it has always been a struggle to complete purely personal projects, but when these are kept short then the finish line is more attainable.  Somehow content seems irrelevant when you have the satisfaction of seeing all those titled icons glowing back at you from the file system.

Like many who write I had youthful daydreams of being an author.  These dreams sprung up at about the same time of life as pimples do, and were perhaps as attractive.  And around the same time I outgrew the acne, I outgrew the fantasies.  But I never stopped writing, and kept up my steady trickle over the years.  Many of my friends, who wrote creatively along with me in adolescence and were much more productive, gave up writing altogether in college or shortly after.  The realities of young adult life—justifying tuitions, finding a job—began extending their dampening effect, and my friends moved on to other things.  In many ways, so did I.  But at the same time, instead of lamenting lost dreams of an unfound audience, I gradually learned to write just for myself.  Humbly, on the side.

This is not to say you shouldn’t pursue your dreams, but rather you should find a way to still live with them if even if they don’t prove to be anything more than that.  Write what you enjoy reading, or write if the process itself is satisfying, or a challenge.  Write like you can’t help it, with no thought for what may come of the finished product.  Many people seem to feel that if they can’t possess the ideal, then they don’t want anything.  I am not especially proud with the majority of what I’ve written, but in this day of age, when so much implacable pressure drives us to consume media, in any and all forms, I am proud that I at least create something, however modest.  I let that be enough.