I am not a great fan of great quotes, they get passed around the internet a lot and most people have heard most of them before. I guess they need constant refreshing, because there’s always going to be some 13 year old kid who’s never even heard of Mark Twain. Still, it seems like an oversimplification, like you’re reducing a person’s life to one thing they said, and chances are good they never even said it, if you look at all the things that are attributed to Einstein, Twain and Lincoln.
Having said that, of course I have a few favorites. How could anybody not? One of my favorites, because I agree with it so much, is from Gertrude Stein, who was really much more famous for being a friend of great writers than a great writer, but she wrote some stuff. When somebody asked her why she liked writing, she said “I don’t like writing. I like having written.”
I agree with that totally. Writing is an itch you need to scratch. From the moment you get the idea until it’s down on paper and complete, writing is like that stray strand of celery that will not be moved from the space between your teeth. Anybody who says rhyming poetry is easy has not written much rhyming poetry, you can take my word for that.
Then, one day, the torment is over.
Today I got physical copies of my latest book, Paradox, and I am very pleased with it. I read through it all again (which doesn’t take long, because they are poems, and because I wrote them, so I was scanning, really) and felt pretty good about every single poem, even a couple of the very short ones, which didn’t have much to say, but I felt they said it well.
I spent many long hours working on it. I spent many long hours working on a couple of the poems individually. (Some came easier. It’s always a mix, isn’t it?) Now, it has joined the collected body of my work, and I can more or less forget about it while I work on the next one.