If you’ve been a reader for a while, you might remember this poem I posted a while back. I wrote it over winter break, fiddled with it, shared it, and didn’t think about it again.
Now that I’m on break again, I’m using my free time to write new poems and dig up old ones to see what’s salvageable. When it came to that poem, it didn’t seem like much of it was worth saving. From my standpoint now, I like some of the ideas, but I feel almost embarrassed by how I worded them. Did I really write that? And was I actually proud of it?
That seems to be the nature of most creative pursuits. You make something in the present and feel that it’s complete, or at least good enough to show others without shame, and over time it becomes something laughable at best or deeply embarrassing at worst. Most of us have felt this way—just think about something you drew as a child, or open Timehop and look at something you tweeted two years ago thinking it was clever.
Writing offers some relief to this situation. You can revise an old poem or story a lot more easily than you can adjust a sculpture or fix a painting. However, when you can always take an old piece and edit it, how do you know when you’re done? When there’s always room for improvement, when do you show your work to others?
When I posted the poem the first time, I thought it was finished. Now, I know I was wrong, and that it most likely will never be finished. But I would rather show a poem in the middle of its life, while it’s still a work in progress, than keep it to myself perpetually until it achieves the impossible and becomes a perfect, completed piece.
Additionally, this time around it’s more than a poem. I recorded myself reading the poem and put it together with some music and footage to make a video. It’s far from perfect. I won’t even try to pretend I know how to read poetry well, and filming at night produced some pretty low-quality visuals. If I spent weeks on it instead of days, it would probably be a lot better. But I’ve been meaning to make a poem video like this for months now—and by that I mean I’ve been putting off making a poem video for months out of fear that it wouldn’t be good enough. After making this one, I could easily ditch it and wait to share it until I made something better. In my experience, however, that usually translates to never making or sharing something. And I’d rather share this video now, while it’s still a work in progress, and be proud of it while I can (however short a period of time that becomes), than to put this project off even longer.
I know over time this video will lose it’s appeal, and I’ll look back on it and wonder what I ever saw in it. But hopefully, I’ll be looking back from a position where I’ve made something even better, because I took the first step toward it today.
So, here’s my poem now. Enjoy it while you can: