So long as someone is writing, do we need to write? There is more being produced in a year in English poetry alone that one could consume in a lifetime, if one could source it all.
If it were about creating to fill a niche that would be a relevant concern but it is also about self-forming and weighing in to form society, not by being carried by but trying to effect what waves get larger or are cancelled.
Writing is about moving towards excellence, whether the writing ever gets published or recognized. It is an inner work about the process of doing and making instead of consuming and kvetching.
If we were to look at it from practical numbers, there is also a saturated market of armchair critics who don’t produce. They’d be in the camp Thoreau described as satisfied to leave it to others. “It is not so important that there should be many as good as you, as that there be some absolute goodness somewhere; for that will leaven the whole lump.”
David Wong wrote at Cracked about doing things of use, gaining skills, he said,
Being in the business I’m in, I know dozens of aspiring writers. They think of themselves as writers, they introduce themselves as writers at parties, they know that deep inside, they have the heart of a writer. The only thing they’re missing is that minor final step, where they actually fucking write things.
But really, does that matter? Is “writing things” all that important when deciding who is and who is not truly a “writer”?
For the love of God, yes.
Part of writing is the perceiving biases and around biases, knowing what you don’t know, the analyzing, the listening, the dialogue, the paying attention, the becoming a person who can create, the skills that go towards creating, promoting, editing, throwing out, cultivating the music, the rhythm, the pitch and etc.
But part of it has to be creating. Creating doesn’t have to wait until one has experienced enough. It is part of the process. Breathe in, write out.
Intentions aren’t the thing. As Wong said, “Children die every day because millions of us tell ourselves that caring is just as good as doing”.
Alright, not polishing a piece of writing isn’t the same weight in the world as a child’s death, but the effectiveness of thinking about editing and the effectiveness of sending good karma wishes to a stranger are about on par.
It is not enough to have an attitude. Henry David Thoreau wrote in the 1840s in Civil Disobedience,
“They will wait, well-disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret. At most they give up only a cheap vote[…]
Scathing and fault-finding, and not to say it isn’t true.
I’m an agreeable person, I think, but I rarely wholeheartedly agree with anything. But that has my cheap vote. More than a nod.
He was rocked on his heels. He had taken my silence as agreement. To his mind, you know what you agree with and if you disagree you go toe-to-toe and work it out, opposing at every move, discussing something into understanding, or more likely until the other person agrees with you. Which knocked me back on my heels.
And silence can be agreement. More than complicit even. More than hostile indifference. More than ignorance. More than too far apart in opinion to find any bridge between ideas. Silence is likely being fine with something.
But with 95% of things being generally as mildly disappointing as it is mildly amusing, one can spend energies complaining, despairing, or observing and making things better whenever you see an opening to do so. If it isn’t right, you do it better yourself so you don’t perpetuate if you can help it.
Hate river poems, avoid them, or make the best river poem ever. Bored enough to chew your own ears off at another relationship failing poem? Make an exemplar that works.
It doesn’t matter the subject really. A poem that exudes well-being and well-formed thoughts may be in any form, whether tanka or language poetry, minimalist or ramblefest, to the ideas expressed. Poems are extensions of postures in life. What poetry is good medicine is for what ails.
I’ve said before that I like Jessica Hiemstra‘s poems but that one linked there illustrates how she balances, acknowledging detailed moment of beauty without denying there is also a past in either direction and other colours and complexities. There’s a nuance but also a baseline of helplessness to the sad and to the glad. Somehow it makes sense to me.
It’s not enough to be unhappy with a system and not voice it at every turn. It goes towards the point which David Wong wrote, “Remember, misery is comfortable. It’s why so many people prefer it. Happiness takes effort.”
Happiness isn’t getting your way necessarily, although that’s nice. Happiness is in part understanding how someone else’s mind and system works. It is partly coming to peace that you can’t change everything as Master of the Universe. It is partly coming to peace with there being way to both understand better and persuade better and gather better skills and be of more use.