Poets should watch This Is Spinal Tap more often. Watching it again after having not seen it for a couple of decades, I was struck by how much fun those guys were having. “Fun” isn’t a word many people associate with writing poems. But many of us were initially drawn into our art because it filled us with a type of wonder; it gave us a kind of pleasure. If the word “fun” makes you uncomfortable, then try “fulfillment.” There’s a poem by Thomas Lux that says, “You make the thing because you love the thing.” When writing becomes most difficult for me, something has pulled me away from that fundamental truth.
It’s easy to get distracted by things that are related to writing but are not the actual act of writing: rejection letters, the latest literary drama exploding online, or the persistent thought of failure. Most of your life will be you sitting alone at a desk. That sounds lonely and tedious unless you’re the type of person that says, “Wow! I just really love sitting alone at a desk!” I’m saying: at some point the process has to be its own reward. Treat yourself well. Get a giant, horned skull with flames in its eyes. Turn every amplifier up to eleven. Then go do the thing you were meant to do.
—Matthew Olzmann, author of Constellation Route (Alice James Books, 2022)