Poem by Snail Light
“Trust the Process,” I tell people all the time, quoting my friend and mentor, George Ella Lyon. Trust the Process, I copied out and put up by my computer when I began to seriously give myself to writing. Did I know what it meant? No – not any more than I knew what it meant to be a mother when I gave birth to my first child more than thirty years ago.
Oh, I had inklings (“inklings” – the perfect word, a scribble of knowledge, a sense of what’s needed – ink – but no clear idea of what to do with it!), but I had to be taught by the day-to-day doing and failing and despairing and going on. Writing has taught me how to write and keeps on showing me the way.
Though I had people like George Ella and Brenda Ueland, in her book If You Want to Write, to point me in useful directions, I often resisted what I most needed to hear. Like this, from Ueland’s book:
“So you see the imagination needs moodling,–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. These people who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice, they have little, sharp, staccato ideas, such as ‘I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget.’ But they have no slow, big ideas. And the fewer consoling, noble, shining, free, jovial, magnanimous ideas that come, the more nervously and desperately they rush and run from office to office and up and downstairs, thinking by action at last to make life have some warmth and meaning.” [p.32]
Years of being told to “quit that daydreaming” had nearly knocked the moodle impulse out of me. But on days when I can recapture it, when I can slow myself down, I find that those “slow big ideas” are still there, clothed in images as water clothes itself in towering clouds on summer afternoons.
Some of you will resist this mightily (as I did), and your poetry will be as good as it always has been. That’s about it. You will get a good idea for a poem or follow an impulse that works itself out quickly in line and with images or sound, and you will be happy with it, and it can probably even get published, and that is that. “Why moodle?” you’ll ask. “It seems a waste of time, and I’m not getting any younger.”
Let the poem belong only to you for a while. Or, better yet, put it away after you have drafted it – even if only for a week—and then take it up again. Meanwhile, let it stay on your mind. Jot things on the back of old envelopes – notes to the poem, reworkings of lines, a new image or detail. Bring these to the poem as you’d give a gift to a newborn. Try them on the poem.
Talking and busyness fill our days for the most part. If, by chance or design, you find some time to simply be with your writing, please do not allow guilt or untimely interruptions to draw you away. Trust what flows into the work from beneath. Then go to work with inspired joy and abandon shaping it!