An Instruction.

Leitch7I know what writer’s block is. I’ve been in a creative writing program for seven of my total seventeen years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve written it all; like I have nothing left to say. These days I feel like I’m in a slump and I’ve lost all of my poetic ability. Even sitting here writing this is becoming impossible for me.

I try to distract myself from the looming poetry portfolios because I simply cannot bring myself to sit in front of a computer screen anymore. Here is a glimpse into a typical night in the life of Élan’s layout editor:

Step One: Get out journal, poetry folder, laptop, coffee, and Avett Brothers’ CD.

Step Two: Drink coffee while telling yourself that tonight will be the night when you        finally finish a draft on time.

Step Three: Listen to The Avett Brothers for a little while. Feel inspired. Feel optimistic.

Step Four: Realize that a half an hour has passed and all you have to show for it is an        empty cup of coffee.

Step Five: Stare at a blank word document for approximately five minutes. Come up with nothing.

Step Six: Continue to stare at a computer screen while simultaneously losing all optimism and confidence in your skills as a writer.

Step Seven: Take a break to re-organize underwear drawer because at this point anything is better than poetry.

Step Eight: Stare out the window for a pathetically long amount of time.

Step Nine: Have an existential crisis.

Step Ten: Force yourself to hold back tears as you inadequately type some incoherent words into your glaring white document.

Step Eleven: Erase every single word because it was all atrocious.

Step Twelve: Give up and go to sleep, swearing that you’ll wake up early and finish it     first thing in the morning.

Step Thirteen: Finish the draft of your poem in Environmental Science approximately twenty minutes before it is due. Promise yourself that you’ll do better next time.

I realize that every writer goes through something similar to this every once in a while. This is how I get over it: read poetry. Trust me; it is impossible to be a good poet without reading the poetry of others. Here are some books of poetry that I like to turn to in my moments of literary crisis:

Sharks in the Rivers by Ada Limon

The Other Poems by Paul Legault

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey

Reading the work of other poets always helps me to quickly regain confidence in my craft.  Even after nights like that I always realize that all of the work is worth it. No one writes a good first draft. It’s just a fact. Every single writer (ever) has had moments of inadequacy. Even the fabulously talented Natasha Trethewey has probably stared at a blank computer screen for hours on end. So if you, reader, can make it through nights like this, I promise you that it will be worth it.

–Emily Leitch, Layout (& Web) Editor