Dispatches | October 25, 2012

*Today’s guest post comes to us via Olivia Aguilar. Olivia is a recent graduate of Stephens College with a degree in English. She currently works as an office assistant at The Missouri Review, and is great.*


at the end of a day of writing

I, like many other college graduates, am searching for a job. Finding a job in publishing in today’s economy is like hunting the mythical chupacabra (if the chupacabra urged you to work as an unpaid intern). Sure, I knew what I was getting into when I declared a major in English, but I didn’t realize how time-consuming job hunting could be. I spend most of my nights combing through pages and pages of simplyhired.com and revamping my resume. I’m not complaining, but I do wish I had more time to write. The inspiration just hasn’t come to me. My notebooks are beginning to grow cobwebs. This lack of inspiration could be what some like to call “writer’s block,” or it could just be the anxiety that comes with my postgraduate uncertainty. Either way, I spend a lot of time staring at a blinking cursor.

My newfound interest in writer’s block led to me spending quality poetry-writing time searching the Internet for articles about the writing process (or for me, lack thereof). NPR’s TED Radio Hour published a story on the creative process and how different artists go about creating something. When does creativity start? Do poems exist in your mind or on paper? Alison Stewart, the show’s host, asks three artists, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Abigail Washburn about how they handle the creative process. As a poet, I found Billy Collins’ comments the most helpful. As the former U.S. poet laureate, I’m sure he doesn’t have as many bouts of writer’s block as I do, but it was nice to hear that even Billy Collins can’t write poems 24/7.


Billy Collins, not writing.

When asked what he thinks about as he writes his poems, Collins said that when he writes, he doesn’t focus on the fact that he is writing a poem. In fact, it’s the last thing on his mind. He tries to stop writing or it will go on forever (ugh, jealous). Alison Stewart then asked him the question I was dying to know the answer to: What do you do on those days when it just doesn’t come to you? Billy simply replied, “Go to the drycleaner. I mean the usual stuff. I just wait.” This may sound like a simple response, but to someone who is guilty of overthinking everything, this is just what I needed to hear. For the first time since I graduated, I didn’t feel the pressure to whip up a mediocre poem because I hadn’t written anything in so long. My writing wasn’t “blocked,” I was just waiting.

Throughout my college career, I wholeheartedly believed in the concept of writer’s block. If I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I would shrug my shoulders and mumble something about writer’s block under my breath. Billy Collins doesn’t believe in it because writers can’t write constantly or they would go insane. Telling yourself that you’re waiting for something to come along is far more healthy than thinking you’re a failure and you’ll never write a poem again. Collins says that his writing involves plenty of patience and intensity. I have yet to master that patience, but when I’m done waiting, maybe I, like Collins, won’t be able to put my pen down.