Monday, April 21, 2008


I was talking with Ryan Johnson, and we got to the topic of why we write. Ryan says he writes because he is bored and needs something to fill up the time. The reason I bring this up is it gets to how writers measure their success. If Ryan writes and isn't bored for sometime than he is successful; whereas others may consider a certain amount of publishing to be successful.

As for myself, I have been published twice by my school magazine, had a hand full of poetry features around town (most set up by friends), and never gotten past the first round of a slam; does this make me a successful poet? Sometimes I don't think it does. Most of the time however I stay true to my original purpose in writing:expressing myself. This goal is not at all concerned with quality of poetry produced. As long as a poem expresses some thought of mine it is a success. I've talked to a pastor or two about how I feel it is important to my faith, but I'm not sure that argument holds much water. Sometimes it expresses my faith, and I feel there is some type of a spiritual discipline at work, most of the time it is me doing what I want.

What do you think? How does one define success as a poet? Why do you write?


Anonymous said...

I like to say that I write because I have to, that I never was given the choice. I am not sure that this is actually true. I also like to say that I write in order to connect with people, i.e. show them that we have the same experiences/feelings/struggles even though we are different people. I am still not sure if that's why I write. I write sometimes because I have crushes on boys. Overall, I think it's because of wanting to express myself. Maybe I am not as good at being articulate when I talk, so I write instead. This is all pretty general. But. I know this. I like it. I like writing a lot.

graham said...

well, I think that while the base reasons for both yours and Ryan's writing may be correct, I think both of you wouldn't be completely honest if you said you didn't care about improving the quality of your work.
if you didn't care about craft, about the act of writing itself, and about making sure that you connect with people in the most effective way possible, you wouldn't subject your poetry to workshop, you wouldn't send me, ryler or others unfinished poems for suggestion.
you both may not be "ambitious" in the sense that it's your goal to become famous poets, but it's clear you want to continue improving in the artform.

Jake Tucker said...

In response to Grahams comment:
I wouldn't say that I don't care about the quality of the poetry, but that it doesn't have to be good to be successful.

Ryan A. Johnson said...

I would say that I agree with Graham and that I want to tweak Jake's a little bit.

It has to be my best at the moment to be successful. I also tend to feel that I can do better. Hence any effort I put into receiving criticism.

Writing is chasing the dragon.

Anonymous said...

I write because I write. I tell jokes because it's a nice way to become the center of attention. I play guitar because I wish I could play guitar better. I make web pages because some people pay me to make web pages and others appreciate my efforts.

But I write just because I write. I get a thrill out of putting a handful of words together and having it mean something and be a pretty way of saying that something.

Poetry is cool because the goal in my mind is to say more than one thing at once. To say something that stands on it's own on the surface, like "hey, remember those socks back in second grade, they were so soft" and then suddenly realize you are really saying, "Hey, there's nothing there after you die so you have to appreciate the small pleasures of this life every waking moment."

That gives me a small pleasure.