To Kick Off National Poetry Month--> The Art of Trusting the Invisible: A Manifesto #NaPoWriMo

Mirror Beetle by Roger Nachman (with reflection of poet)

The Art of Trusting the Invisible: A Manifesto

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.
                       ~Marc Chagall

As a poet, I have learned the importance of following my instincts and trusting my inner sense to guide me where I need to go. Yes, this can sound a little new age woo-woo or make it seem my work needs more quartz crystals or incense than pencils and coffee. Maybe it does, or maybe trusting one’s instincts is a radical act.

As a poet, I realize much of my writing life comes from this place of not understanding why I’m making the choices I’m making. My best luck and best work has come from letting things happen. Many times I feel that if I just let go of the wheel, I’ll be safely taken to where I need to be. Many times, a little faithless, I try to steer with my knees. Sometimes, when I’m not sure how to proceed with my writing or my writing world, I shift my life into neutral and position it on the top of a hill to see what happens. Many times, nothing. But other times, there’s a push from something greater and I’m moving again. I let things roll. I watch the streetlamps passing by and rarely travel with a map.

I admit, sometimes my gut tells me to do outlandish things—once it told me to support another artist by buying a small glass beetle he had designed and named, Mirror Beetle. This feeling made no sense to me; at the time, I was short on cash, but as I wandered through his studio I kept having this underlying thought: You need to buy that. It will help you.

So I did buy it. For $175, which felt especially expensive because I was putting a lot of trust into this “feeling” that I should own this glass insect, this Mirror Beetle. Unsure of why I bought this piece of art, I placed it on my desk and began to admire its detail—its glass wings, gold antennae, its tag that read: Elypticum reflectiva. Within the next month, the Mirror Beetle had inspired a poem. And when the poem was finished, I again had a gut feeling this poem needed to be out in the world, maybe submitted to a poetry prize.

Since I was trusting the invisible here, I went big; I submitted the poem to a prize that offered awards from $500 to $10,000. In case you didn’t know where this was going—I won. And I didn’t just win, but I won big. I was awarded $7500, and now had $7500 worth of reasons to trust what I could not see.

It has always been this way. When I am lighter and listening, trusting even, my writing and my art flourish. When I overthink things, I kill them. Of course, there comes a time, when I need to revise, when I need to be less happy-go-lucky with my art, where I need focus by taking the tie-dye and patchouli oil in the writing studio. The revision process needs a thoughtful hand (though maybe even one wearing a mood ring), as this is the time in my work where I can ruin a poem or make it better.

When I begin revising, I never know how things will turn out. I’m a pro at sucking the life out of my poem and leaving it on my desk in a sad weak state. Vampire revisions: stealing the lifeblood from my poem’s body. Other times, I am a gentle and precise doctor finding ways to clear out clots, sew up gashes, clean up what went wrong. Again, it comes down to trusting, trusting what the poem wants to be and say, and not what my ego or head thinks is best.

The gift of every poem happens during the creation portion of it, those moments when I am lost in its words. Maybe the best writing we can do comes from this trust that writing poetry can save us. Maybe it’s allowing things to happen, walking through the garden to watch to lilac bushes grow wild without feeling the need to prune every branch that leans onto the path. We don’t have to control everything. Maybe as we walk we should bend a bit or take a new route. Maybe we should just pause to admire what’s around us.

I’ve grown both as a writer and a person in realizing that the satisfaction in my art is not in what it brings me when it’s completed—publication, awards, status—but the fulfillment I find is in the act of making something where there was once nothing before. I’ve become better at just allowing things to happen, realizing that sometimes a Mirror Beetle becomes a Miracle Beetle, and understanding that mostly, the writing life is a hazy path worth traveling on—trusting the journey, trusting what I can’t see, and the inner sense that can guide us to wherever we need to be.

~ Kells

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