Welcome to The Tiniest of Things, A monthly mix of ‘writerly’ observations and poetry from poet Tiffany Coffman
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.
“Every man has reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has other matters in his mind which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind.” – Dostoyevsky
I wasn’t raised by the warmest of mothers. My memories of her are of emotional and verbal abuse and heavily lacking in affection. I despised burnt toast as a child (still do) and more often than not my mother burnt mine. While my sister had no issues eating it, I couldn’t stand the taste, so my mother would have to make another batch. There was just something about the surface taste of burnt toast that I found unappealing and possibly a little uncaring on her part. How easy it seemed for my mother not to care.
As writers, we must care about our work even though it means digging deeper and paying closer attention to what we’re attempting to do; how we’re attempting to affect others with our writing. Staying on the surface as a writer can be unappealing and lack tremendous flavor for the reader, but for the writer it may be the safest place to reside. Herein you never have to push boundaries within yourself and can churn out work comfortably and at a nice clip with minimal reveal. In essence, there is no danger.
Every day I take the same route to work, but the past few weeks I’ve noticed a man of average age in the mornings walking the length of the block. He strikes me as odd as he walks at a slow pace always wearing the same clothes. There is nothing unusual I notice about him that would make sense of the slowed way in which he walks except that he appears to be quite content meandering back and forth. I began to wonder if he ever left the block, or changed his clothes, or if he gets a wild hair and sprints for a few. What if we do this as writers? What if we get stuck on the same length of block, never venturing beyond into danger, finding ourselves content to remain in our safety zone?
Danger is a grand thing as a writer. It’s imperative if you intend to evolve beyond everything you believe about yourself. I’m not talking necessarily about revealing your secrets in a confessional manner, but you have to dig deep as a writer and find pieces of your unique experiences to flavor a piece or add dimension to characters. You can only do this by revealing those things inside yourself that are deeply recessed. This type of self-understanding will add authenticity to your work as the reader will find you credible and real regardless of what type of writing you do. It’s all about connection between the reader and writer as you never write for yourself alone.
I’m always looking for ways to change things up as a writer as I can get stuck in a particular way or on a particular theme. By constantly challenging and pushing yourself by tapping into those raw materials you’ve so conveniently stored away in the warehouse, you will allow for the most engaging write that when exported to the reader will give them a sense of who you are. This realness that you deliver will
keep them coming back to explore your work, connecting. And it’s not about attempting with your writing to be different for the sake of being different at all. In fact, should you deliver something that feels in the slightest way faked or forced the reader will call you out. It’s not about being different but going deeper; getting off that same stale length of block and seeing what courage lies in you to move further down the road.
As writers, it’s our job to see the extraordinary out of the ordinary – to dig up those dusty memories we’ve buried so deeply and examine and expose them. W.B. Yeats said, “Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.” So it’s not about finding a different abyss, or scratching the surface, but really diving in to the
depths of your own warehouse that will take your writing to the next courageous level. It’s not in any way easy at times digging up old bones, but I say better to be an archaeologist than a grave digger. Fall crazy, mad in love with the abyss of who you are. That’s where the good stuff is. Take a courageous peek at what you think you believe about yourself – your recollections – and then weave it into words.
A few weeks ago while making breakfast I burnt my toast. It was the last two pieces of bread I had left and damn it, I needed that toast. So I decided to scrape the burnt surface off to see if that removed the terrible flavor I’d always hated. Sure enough it did. In scratching the surface I’d discovered something deeper; a mother who could’ve just as easily scraped off the surface in lieu of making another batch of toast for me. And in that moment, she was the most caring mother.
Dive deep into the warehouse.
You can find more of Tiffany’s poetry and prose here: