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One writer’s law: trust that more will come

I tend to view the world in terms of poetry, finding meaning and metaphor in everything from the way the rain falls here in the Pacific Northwest, to the process of replanting a lilac tree, to how my grandmother drags branches to her burn pile or shells peas while watching the sun set over the Olympic Mountains. This may be why I admire Raymond Carver’s poetry so much—because he writes about common people and events, yet manages to transcend their commonness into something beautiful.

When I first discovered Carver, nicknamed the great “American Chekov” for his short stories, it was his poetry that drew my attention. Carver’s last book of poems, A New Path to the Waterfall,written while he was dying of cancer, quickly became my favorite as I read it over and over, each time moved to tears, especially over the introduction by his wife and fellow poet Tess Gallagher.

In her introduction, Gallagher tells us about Carver’s law—“not to save up things for some longed-for future, but to use up the best that was in him each day and to trust that more would come.” When you’re faced with your own mortality, you truly understand: each day is a gift not to be wasted.

Through my own wake-up calls, I was applying Carver’s law to my life as well: never taking things or people for granted, never holding back. But it felt odd to think of this in regard to my writing—if I gave my all each moment on the page, would I really have anything left for later? I didn’t think so. I didn’t trust my creative process enough to believe that more would come.

But Carver’s book of poetry changed my mind. Obviously, he wrote with everything he had, he held nothing back. You can feel it when you read his words. Yet he still had more to give…until the day he died. What if we were as brave? What gifts could we leave the world?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I needed to read this post, and I’m glad I did! I find myself worrying that my creative fountain will dry up soon, and that I won’t come up with anything brilliant (well, to me at least) in the future. But writing is an act of faith (whatever religion you believe in, even in the religion of not believing anything). I know I work hard when I write, and I do everything I can to improve. At the same time, I also know that my writing comes from a place I don’t really know and can’t really explain, and that sometimes, I surprise myself with what I can come up with. Some people call it talent, and you know, I believe that. I can’t sing, draw, or dance, so I won’t even attempt to do them. But I can write and I’m passionate about it. So I will write on and on.

    And I believe that you will, too. 🙂

    November 29, 2011
    • Thanks for the comment. I agree–writing or making any art is an act of faith. And we can build that faith through experience…when I write something that surprises me or feels “right,” I use that experience to build my faith in myself as an artist–it shows me that I can plug into something greater than what my left brain can imagine. Happy creating!

      November 29, 2011

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