Poems · writing

Learning to Live (Outside My Head)

It isn’t easy- my years of lazy experience
Has made me an outcast who lives inside her head
The thoughts like little mice scurrying
Through the alleyways of my skull
Project as potent, looming shadows; and thicken
Into a cloud above my eyes

All my childhood I was told
To learn to live outside my head
Look at all these men and their flashy toys,
And beg questions off the wind!
Don’t spin strange, lovelorn tales from your bed
That is just what sad little girls do

I was bitter, fighting war on two fronts
On the inside: starved for words, colors, sounds
On the outside: longing for the romance of the woods
And to discover dampened leaf patterns upon its floor
I thought I knew better than to live outside my head

Today I am still learning, wondering:
What is it like to live outside my head?
Is it worth giving up on the kaleidoscope of nightmares
Inside; to feed perhaps my ego on miles of human concrete
And drinking games, and flashy lights, and the smoke from angelic lips

Hello fellow bloggers, followers and anybody else who might chance upon this poem! How have you been? I’ve been gone for a while now! But I always return somehow. That’s the deal. Sometimes I do wonder if one of these days all the little voices dictating stories inside my head will disappear on their own and I will have nothing else to say to blank pieces of paper- or, in most cases nowadays, to the pristine white computer screen. If experience were to be my guide, I would dismiss this thought outright. But my creative wheels do stop spinning, especially when I live in the outside world. It is a challenge- a delicate balance. Would I be willing to risk my sanity for the Great Writing Cause? I wouldn’t say no to that question because a lot of great writing does come from a healthy dose of insanity. But the remaining comes from discipline.

I’ve begun to think a little bit about drafts lately. Everything you see here on this blog is a “first draft” that is produced in one sitting, barely ever corrected for grammatical or spelling errors, let alone revised for flow. That’s what makes the blogging experience so breezy for me: I don’t let my perfectionist tendencies interfere with it because I see it as something limited- a “hobby” I pursue without rhyme or reason. If I were to promise myself a little more ambition in terms of my blog (and believe me, I have tried and always failed), the little voice dictating errors will take over and paralyze me. Anyway, I just started reading a book called Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamon. It got me thinking about the potential of using the 90% weak writing that I put out into the world courtesy of this blog, to mine for the 10% of gold which I assume is hiding within it. That’s where the drafts come in.

Anne talks about short assignments and shitty first drafts that may make absolutely no sense and be so disgustingly repulsive that you might want to throw your laptop right out the window. But she sees benefit and bravery in your attempts to just sit down every day anyway, to push these shitty drafts out of you (almost like you are giving birth to them, which you are) because that’s where the good stuff is going to come from. I think if that is true, then there lies that balance between living inside your head and living outside it that is so essential for creativity.

Sure, I can lock myself up Marquez-style. It would probably drive me insane but perhaps if I am clever enough, it might get me published posthumously. Or I could simply look for a balance between pulling crazy demons out of my hat(rack) and actually polishing them until they shine in the dark and you can see them stand out, maybe even like them just a little bit. Enough to share with friends and family?

I don’t know if any of this makes any sense. But hey, this might just be a shitty first draft with the potential for greatness, right?


One thought on “Learning to Live (Outside My Head)

  1. Quite contradictory matter of subjects has been portrayed here in form of a poem and a prose styled as a note. Contradictory not in conventional sense but in a sense that it represents a prominent form of Duality. Outside the head vs. Inside. Reality(in purely conventional way) vs dreams. Aspirations vs assumed duty. And this duality is the reason for inner conflict or loss of Harmony.

    The two realms of Inside and Outside represented by your “hobby” and your life as a student respectively are often at odds with each other it seems. I believe that it would be a tough decision if you’re told to choose anyone out of the two. And your self reinforcements by convincing yourself that you will always return here on the blog somehow elucidates the fact.

    You are right in saying that these first drafts has the potential of being great literary works but the question is are you willing to pay the price for transforming that potentiality into actuality? Cause without that the potentiality of these drafts is not much higher than those which you never drafted as a compromise for living in the realm of Outside (by being a student). I’m aware of the fact to not to mistake a mistress for a wife and a hobby for a profession but we don’t expect greatness in a hobby just as we don’t expect loyalty from a mistress (I do not support any gender roles and identity). Saying that I also have serious reservations on the authority of respectable Anne Lamott and her credentials, not forgetting how easy it has been in publishing a book and being popular (and not being great) particularly in this century. The way I see it is that what she offers is just consolation and false hopes which Nietzsche expressed famously as ‘ that which doesn’t kill us makes stronger.’ So either you would have to risk everything in order to know the truth by actually trying locking up Marquez style or be satisfied with the illusion served in the form of cynicism.

    I think we take life too seriously that we are unable to do what we should be doing and in process eroding harmony which is so essential for growth and creativity.

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