The Tiniest of Things #2: ‘Been Around the Block’

16 Apr

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Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from Tiffany Coffman

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My name is Tiffany Coffman, and I’m a poet. I know. It sounds like quite the declaration of an addiction, and in some way I suppose it is. I have no formal education or a degree hanging on my wall, but what I do have is the breadth of my life experience and the appetite for creativity that drives me to write. Poetry has been with me since childhood, a curious cohort that has permitted me to get absolutely lost in imagination and disclose what I absorb through the senses, through memories. As a creative, the ability to bend words to my advantage, whether in rhyme or by natural flow, then revel in the middle of it all is the stuff of magic. I write from an organic place, a place of fidelity, wherein I attempt to gift the reader with imagery and storytelling so inviting that you’ll have felt you’ve shared something with me. I don’t write for myself. I write to take you along with me on a ride of emotions and confessions, whether they’re mine or yours. So we’ll take the top down, throw the map away, kiss the asphalt, and roll.

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Words will not come about in the lateness of this hour

tick tock; tick tock

Busy body clock

Mind your own goddamn business!

Tick tock over someone else’s clock for I have work to do

Your insipid clicking and untimely ticking

is clunking in my brain

And this matter matters more to me than to you, so…

So…

Oh! Now you’ve done it!

I’ve stopped again

Stopwatch-ing then

Why don’t you go run a few laps around the block?

Unstop the stop

And make useful knots in someone else’s clock?

Harbinger of Time binging on mine!

Take your present and gift it to the past

for there’s no future for you in the mixing

of such verbal elixirs of rhyme and reason

Do not unseat me or try to deplete me

Or I’ll…

So help me, I’ll…

I’ll…

oh, damn.

>>

Been Around the Block

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I’ve been given the rare privilege of losing everything I own twice in my life; the first time at 17, and the second time at 34. In fact, I’ve lost an abundance of things in my life. There is a stripping away of one’s identity that leaves you naked wondering who you are. I’m not going to mislead you by saying it’s been easy or that it hasn’t made me question the why of things, but what it has done is made me resilient, flexible, and skilled in the art of loss. These are events that get stuck in the back of your throat trying to cut your air off, and until you master the art of loss through repeated dyings, you’ll continue to jeopardize the flow.

Oxford Dictionary defines writer’s block as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing”. I’m not going to sit here presuming to know why someone gets writer’s block because it’s a subjective thing. Someone may be blocked because they’ve exhausted all their original thoughts not knowing where to go next, or perhaps the responsibilities of life need more attention. Maybe one’s confidence has declined and fear has taken hold. I’m not so much concerned with the why but rather how to move through it.

In writing, there is an ever present conflict arising between the writer and the words with the writer trying to control the words and the words trying to control the writer. The two diametrically oppose each other as they vie for authority. When the writer wins, the writing is forced and flat, and when the words win, writer’s block sets in. Normally competition can be a healthy experience, but competing in a zero sum game can cause a writer to become locked as one attempts to constantly outdo their last piece. Often times, the desire to want to write too much or the next best thing can wreak havoc on a soul.

I’ve never experienced writer’s block in my life. Let me clarify. The occurrences when I’ve been unable to write have been perceived as simple disinterest in writing, i.e., I wasn’t feeling it, or I needed to take a step back, reassess. Maybe it’s my perception that sees it as something other than writer’s block that frees me from any anxiety associated with it. The only tension I’ve ever received with regard to my writing has not been over whether I’ll ever write again, but rather, will my disinterest in writing remain? Even still, that quickly passes as what is gifted or gathered through desire is rarely lost for any length of time. Whenever my desire to write lingers, I see it as Desire going out for a long walk knowing full well it will return, but should it not, I’ve always accepted that possibility as well. Acceptance can be defined as “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered”. The ability to walk away, not fight, and exit a situation is key.

When writer’s block sets in it’s not a time to panic but an opportunity to rest; a sort of signpost pointing towards a need to do nothing in the way of forcing a write. Writers often fall into the thinking that they must always be in a state of writing, but while you’re spending all this time writing in your head or on paper you’re not listening. There’s a quiet to be had inside yourself wherein the whole world of experience rests. The noisy external, brought inward by the five senses, can erupt in a mass of confusion causing anxiety, pressure, and the control over the expectation to produce. The need to control is strong in the human psyche as it creates the illusion that you’re able to direct the course of events. To let go, really let go of something, causes uncertainty and fear, so we do whatever we can to avoid this. The upshot is that the very thing we’re trying to avoid we bring on even harder, digging our claws in it with such ferocity. If you can use writer’s block as an opportunity to be still and go softly inward listening to all you’ve taken in, the ideas will eventually flow without force or stress.

Tiny little deaths happen all throughout one’s life as you’re constantly losing things; friends, jobs, marriages – all coming and going. But all things are in a constant state of flux including a human being. Memories get old, they fade, they change, and they even rewrite themselves. This idea we as writers have bought into that we must have a muse adds to the building of the blocks. Countless times you’ll hear writers say they’ve lost their muse and with that, their inspiration. But nothing really belongs to you in the first place. Remember, all coming and going. You need no muse, no rituals, no hot tea, or special time of day. Everything you’ve ever needed in your life is contained within yourself waiting to be noticed and unearthed and spilled onto paper. The notion that you should always be writing can interfere with the moments of rest so important to a human being, those moments of introspection. You’re either writing or not writing. Plain and simple. The idea that you should constantly be writing is what damages a soul.

Don’t try to make writer’s block more than it is as that will only give it power. Use every block to rest within yourself and start listening. “Listen” to art, photography, music, or nature. Tune in to other senses such as sight and hearing that give your writing mind a rest. Attach to nothing, yet attach to everything. Feel the world around you while pulling it in to lie within your cells firing your imagination and feeding your soul. This is where your freedom resides; unbridled and unattached to doing. The writing will be there waiting for you as Desire makes its way back home. Remember; don’t be afraid to lose things. They’re either meant to stay with you or not.

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Tiffany will be back with her next entry in May .

Meanwhile you can read more of her work here:

http://tlcoff.wordpress.com/


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3 Responses to “The Tiniest of Things #2: ‘Been Around the Block’”

  1. charlottecarrendar April 16, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Wicked blog. I find breaking the old writer’s block, is to share thoughts on stories with my friends and co writers, and often over a coffee and online, manage to break down the block, with laughter and some damn good insight.

    • tlcoff April 16, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks, Charlotte, and you’re absolutely right. Sharing ideas and talking things out with friends and other creatives is an excellent way to get the writing ideas flowing again. So important to have that as a resource, and who doesn’t love having stimulating conversation over coffee?

  2. James Knight April 17, 2013 at 6:51 am #

    I LOVE “Words will not come”! Slippy hip rhythms of words at play.

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