lose it, all, right away, every time

Annie Dillard again, still from The Writing Life:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

How hard and slippery it is to find one’s own place.

Some in the blogosphere say: Don’t put your poems on your blog!

Some evil person may steal them. Or some publishing person may say they are thus published and not thereafter publish them. There is no good argument for putting or leaving your poems on your blog.

But I think there is. I think poems are like skin cells – you have to continually flake them off and discard them to allow the new ones underneath them light and space to grow.

And yes, you have to believe 1) that there will always be new ones behind them 2) the new ones will be better than the ones that have come before and 3) the new ones are the better for the discarding of the old ones.

Might not all our talent evaporate on us one day, all our power dissolve?

Possibly. Not improbably. But does hoarding it, portioning out and stinting it while it lasts do anything to lengthen its lifespan? Al contrario, muchachos. Surely not.


Published by

Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

2 thoughts on “lose it, all, right away, every time”

  1. I love this, and have three things:

    1. While writing my novel, whatever I “put aside for later use” never got used; and

    2. I had a poetry teacher that once told me I should be so lucky if someone thought my poems good enough to steal; and

    3. We were doing portraits in an art class sophomore year in high school. I drew the best picture of Andrew Ridgley I ever drew in my life. It had shading, everything. Then the teacher said to all of us: “now erase it. You drew it beautiful once, you can draw it beautiful again.” That was the hardest erasure I have ever done.

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