Molly Fisk

Molly Fisk

After the first really fallow year of my writing life, I’m trying to coax myself into producing more poems. Last year someone hugely important to me died. The next three poems I wrote were about his death, and then I just stopped cold. There was also the matter of my house and its loan modification, which required some fancy footwork to earn more money. I took intensive courses and began a practice as a life coach, which has been a lot of fun but that work requires listening and problem-solving: a kind of hyper-aware tuning in to other people. Writing poems requires, at least in my case, a soft-focus in the brain, a necessary blurring of the edges of perception to see more inwardly, and a keen awareness of my own senses.

What the two pursuits have in common, and one of the reasons I’m good at both, are the intuitive leaps that take you from one idea to an unexpected next one. When I start poems, I have no notion where I’m going to end up, and often surprise myself by writing something I didn’t know I believed or was even thinking about. Getting startled like that makes writing exciting, and coaching, too. The look on a client’s face when I suggest a different angle and it registers in his mind is fabulous to watch. I feel incredibly lucky that people let me into their lives this deeply, and then actually try out my suggestions and find something they’re looking for, whether it’s clarity, more choices, or  resolution.

But following a year of not writing much, I seem to have lost some confidence. The chorus of rascally voices in my head is having a field day — you used to be good at this, what happened? — you’ve lost your gift, it was only temporary anyway — you’ve said everything interesting you ever had to say — you’re stale, dull, boring, old-fashioned, just plain old, too obvious — that’s a terrible line, can’t you think of something more original?! And on, and on.

This week, my job is to write a poem every day no matter how boring and obvious it seems, and beat back the dreadful voices by showing up. I may secretly always believe that my first book is the best writing I’ll ever do, because I was unselfconscious back then, but I think I can still write some good poems alongside that idea and not let it stop me. I’m darn well going to try anyway! Turning out a good poem isn’t just a mental feat or cause for emotional satisfaction. It’s my only real spiritual connection. It’s how I worship and how I grieve, how I find both joy and solace.

I’m a poet because I write poems, but also because of the way I see the world, and that’s not going to change. I’m always going to notice how many shades of green are visible out my bathroom window, and agree, deep in my bones, with William Carlos Williams, that so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow/glazed with rain/water/beside the white/chickens.

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  • Molly Fisk December 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks, everyone — yes, fallow as fields are fallow, and yes, daily practices are good. I find that my biggest impediment to writing creatively these days is the time I spend on social media, so I’ve learned to limit that, and to go out of the house with no electronics and write in cafes or outdoors on a bench — even in my uncomfortable car at a scenic vista point in the pouring rain has worked. 😉

  • amy gigi alexander December 13, 2015 at 12:08 am

    I think it is tremendously doubtful that you’ve written the best work of your life. Odds are you haven’t yet written the best work of your life! And, anyway, it’s never about the best; it’s about the work.
    The field, too, has to have fallow periods to grow anything; crops must be rotated; life must breathe into spaces which were used up again. It is the process in nature and I think it is true in writing, too. I’ve taken a few breaks this past year and I think they were needed. Breaks are good things.

  • Dina Barzilai December 12, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    Molly, thanks for writing this piece.

    It’s really impossible that you have said everything interesting you are ever going to say. Why? Because every minute, something new is unfolding, and you will have new thoughts about what you are observing. You will comment on your observations, because you are you. New and fresh is always interesting. You will always be interesting.

    As for me, I’ve promised myself I’m going to begin a daily writing discipline like others mentioned above. I’ve been procrastinating for 30 years because of thoughts not unlike yours above. I’ve just decided I’m going to do it anyway, whether my writing is sucky and boring or whether it’s brilliant. People like you, AGA, others have inspired me enough over the years that I’m finally going to do something about ignoring those detractors in my head. Thank you.

  • Mary Anne Morefield December 12, 2015 at 11:03 am

    Hi Molly,
    After the publications of my first book, EARTH,GRASS,TREES and STONE,
    I stopped writing, but decided to try to start again by writing a poem a day.
    I put each one in a blue folder. Some are not bad. Some are awful.
    I have missed some days, but the folder is getting fatter.

    Soon, I’ll pull it out, take out the best work and begin the revisions.
    The time writing is pure joy.
    Mary Anne Morefield

  • Christine Graf December 12, 2015 at 8:08 am


    Yes, I agree about writing daily or having a writing practice. I am a poetry coach/mentor and consistently urge my students to write no what comes from the pen. Sooner or later words will flow and a poem will emerge. For me writing keeps me close to the things most important, and to my spirit.

    Best wishes, Christine Graf