discovering the freedom of iteration

I used to think editing was for bad writers. That is, until I started writing every day instead of only when I felt like it.

When I wrote every day I didn’t have time to mull over the words in my head until they were just right; I had to just write. At first it was hard to take the abstract process that found far too much freedom in the vast expanses of my brain space and put it onto two-dimensional black-and-white. I’m still learning how to do so, in fact. Sometimes it’s a real struggle — I have a few poems that attempt to express that in the book my heart poured out — but the struggle has been worth it. It has meant that I’m forced to put ideas down someplace physical instead of leaving them in my head where they were liable to be lost.

Writing every day made me realize that I’d been editing all along. I had kept the process in my head and only let the words out when I was sure they were near finished. Maybe they would need a touch of polish, but generally they were in the form they would take when published.

Sometimes I fall back into old habits. I wait until I have a complete idea before setting pen to paper. But usually I have had half a dozen other ideas in the meantime that I do put down in some form or fashion, whether it be a few-hundred word document, a sentence fragment in the notes app on my phone, or a few rambling phrases in my journal. Writing every day made me comfortable with all of these. It forced me to experiment — to write something — and discover the value in processes I wouldn’t have otherwise tried.

Most of all, writing every day showed me how much I have to say and helped me express it instead of letting it sit stagnant in some corner of my brain. Allowing myself to go back and edit (and delete!) frees me to write anything that comes to mind, no matter how seemingly stupid it is at second glance. In fact, I’ve found that plenty of the words I had expected to be stupid actually aren’t and I don’t delete them after all. I refine them, or file them away for later. It is only in letting them out that I can see their unexpected beauty.

So many of the poems in my heart poured out were this way. I wrote them simply for the sake of writing. Some I mulled over more than others before writing a first draft. Some I continued to edit right up until I finalized the book. Most of them would never have come to be, though, without the freedom to iterate.

these words are meant for sharing

I used to write for myself. When I put my thoughts and emotions into words I didn’t want to share them. I kept my cards close, didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve.

Occasionally I would let a poem out into the public, but those were the poems about nature or a vague experience — the type of poem that wore a thick veil, masking its true meaning.

But then something changed.

I don’t know what, exactly. Maybe it was simply that I hit a point of desperation that cracked me open. I began to share my thoughts and emotions with a few people who proved trustworthy and in letting them spill I began to feel lighter. Then I saw how opening up did not only benefit me but the people I spilled over into as well.

I started sharing more of my poems. I put them out into the wide world via the world wide web. I didn’t often hear the responses of those who read them, but when I did I was amazed. I wasn’t alone — they weren’t alone. Not only did my words resonate, but they also opened readers’ eyes wider to the world, broadened their perspectives, made them think. People wrote me to thank me for writing, so I kept at it.

Now these poems fill a book. I hope that through this medium they will find and affect even more readers. This book may certainly be read quietly and contemplated alone, but may it also prove to be a bridge between friends, a way to start conversation, a gift of hope when the giver has no words. May its readers be blessed in the reading, and may they be inspired to write their own words, whether they intend to share them or not. And may these readers learn the value of a shared word.

book cover reveal!

I can hardly express my excitement over this book cover! On Tuesday I'll be featuring a guest post from the artist, Eric Lin of Café Watercolor so you can learn more about this piece {edit: here's the link to the guest post!}. It was amazing to work with Eric on this project. He's been a reader of my poems for some time now, and the fact that he already knew my work made everything extra special. His painting beautifully expresses the spirit of my words in a way I couldn't have dreamt up myself.

a peek inside my book of poems

Next week my heart poured out, an anthology of poetry, will be available for preorder. I organized the poems in this book into six sections and have included a peek into each section below:

• writing and storytelling

...my ink is blood, sweat, and tears
my palette holds the colors of fire and water
my notes are the heart-cry of tortured sounds
because I must make something beautiful
from the pain in the world...

• fear and anxiety

...though I am all too well acquainted with the darkness
I will not be seduced by its power
nor deceived into passivity by its weakness
because I am also well acquainted with the Light...

• loss and depression

...what I wouldn't give for a rainy day
why can't the sky reflect the gloominess inside?
the light streams through broken blinds
piercing the darkness in my soul
and making me bleed tears...

• love and devotion

...love?
I shuddered when he said the word
I used to know love
back when I knew pain...

• purpose and identity

...who is the real me?

are they lies
the pictures people see
a masquerade?
or could it be
that I'm the one who can't see
past the facade?...

• joy and beauty

...look!
usual, mundane
strolling, wandering, exercising
just a normal walk?
hesitate...

did I write that?

These months of compiling and editing poetry that I wrote years ago have been interesting. Going back to that time when I wasn't who I am today is disconcerting at times and laughable at others. It's like meeting up with an old friend I hardly know anymore.

Maybe that's part of why I've been dragging my feet a bit when it comes to actually releasing this book. Maybe I'm afraid you'll think I'm still the girl I was when I wrote these lines that were lifelines holding my life together. Maybe I don't know how to tell you I was once the author of these poems, but I'm no longer the same person who wrote them.

Once upon a time I wrote these poems because I needed them. I don't need them in the same way anymore. Today I prepare to publish these poems not because I need them, but because maybe you do. Certain people have already read a few and already begged for more. These friends have become better friends because of these words I once wrote.

And so I cannot regret those words I once wrote. I choose not to regret even the sloppy phrases dripping with hurt that never became full poems because they helped to shape the words that did make it into this anthology. I choose not to regret the pain that drove me to my pen and my keyboard because now I have something beautiful to share.

Perhaps my only regret is that I haven't shared them sooner.