Sarah Gorham Recommends...

“First of all, it’s okay not to write. Most writers are highly disciplined, equipped with a demanding, inner CEO. We tie our identities, our sense of worth, and our happiness to writing well. Not writing feels terrible, unless you consider that it too is part of the process. The muse is sly. Sometimes she goes into hiding. I’ve learned to accept that silence can be a kind of productivity. Loaf with yourself, to paraphrase Whitman. If you cannot relax, move on to another project or another genre. Teach yourself how to simply play with words; it’s time for recess and no one’s grading. When writing essays, I juggle several pieces at once. There’s the mountain essay, the water essay, the one about wind. I keep all three windows open on my computer and dash between them. In poetry, I start with description, plant my chair on the lawn, taking in what’s there. Or if nothing comes, my never-fail exercise is what I call ‘negative inversions.’ First, copy out a short, simple poem on the left side of your blank book. Charles Simic, Kay Ryan, W. S. Merwin, all work well for this. Then, on the right page, write the rough opposite of the first line, then the second, and so on. Sky may become earth, earth may translate to moon, lime to fire red. Gradually, I’ll find my poem, hidden inside the original.”
—Sarah Gorham, author of Study in Perfect (University of Georgia Press, 2014)