The creative process

One of my biggest struggles as a writer is sitting down to do the work. These days, it seems like I need a reason to write, a reason that goes beyond just scribbling some ideas to play around with. I think this is because having a kid and a farm and a husband means my time for just “playing around” with words feels harder to come by and maybe more selfish than it used to.

But I can get going if I have a reason to write and a deadline. And this month, because South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart has put forth a call for submissions for a new collection of poetry, I have both.

Stewart’s anthology seeks to highlight life in South Dakota, and I’ve decided to cobble together three poems prior to the March 1 deadline. I’m hoping to highlight life in what South Dakotans call West River, or the area of the state that’s west of the Missouri River. I grew up just south of the South Dakota border out in West River, spent a lot of time fishing on the Missouri River around Pierre, and then moved to Sioux Falls for college. So although I know both ends of the state, and I love Sioux Falls, I’m working on material that highlights the quieter side of the state.

Notes, and a rough poem

I’ve been playing around with some ideas in a Word doc, and others in a notebook. The handwritten stuff is better and more focused. But I’m leading a workshop in revision in a couple of weeks, so today I’m also thinking about what it means to be able to write and revise and save a record of it.  Below, a record of my ideas:

There’s lots going on there. Ideas from an essay I wrote in grad school about dust, and how it differs in rural areas and the city; a quote about rain and maybe physics; the idea that we return to dust; a jotting of words and images. I like this idea of returning to dust not just because its something many are familiar with but because I’ve come back to the country, from the city. I’ve returned to the dust…and if you’ve ever been in my house you know I mean this in a real way.

Despite the vision and the ideas that are sort of swirling around here, I haven’t quite figured out what I want to say in the poem I’m trying to put together. Usually my poetry is driven by social justice issues, and writing about the dust isn’t that.

So for now, I put the idea away. I’ll come back to it tomorrow or the next day, or both. I’ve got that deadline, after all, and now that I’ve adopted it, I’ll have to come up with something.

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