stray thoughts, writing
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Following the light


From painting I learned something else of infinite value to me. Most young poets have bad working habits. They write their poems in fits and starts, by feast or famine. But painters follow the light. They wait for it and do their work by it. They combine artisan practicality with vision. In a house with small children, with no time to waste, I gradually reformed my working habits. I learned that if I could not write a poem, I could make an image, and if I could not make an image, I could take out a word, savor it and store it.

From Eavan Boland’s essay “The Woman Poet: her dilemma” quoted in The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long [underlining mine].

The start of another week. My twenty-first consecutive day of writing (something small, every day – I started on the last day of December). The pages of black ink an unbroken thread through my days. Mostly I feel like I’m just spilling out the detritus of my mind: snippets of dreams, stray thoughts & worries & current obsessions, the snatches of little one conversation that I can’t bear to forget. But there have been days – two days – when it has felt that I’m getting somewhere, that I’m writing something that might, just might, lead to something more. Writing that I might be able to do something with. So, another week of following the light, of thinking small – a poem, an image, a word – and remembering that this is the most sustainable way I can try to work. This is the only way to stay connected.


  1. What a lovely post! And what wise advice from Boland. I remember her essays as a kind of solace when my children were young and I grabbed them, the way I’d grabbed her poems when I first read them as a young woman (and aspiring poet), for dear life.

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