A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire
Making It New, Really New
Ezra Pound, the American poet, challenged his fellow writers to make it new. The great artist, said Pound, approaches art as a beginner, or he or she is adding nothing to the world of letters that hasn’t been done already.
Make it new is easy advice to grasp—there’s a reason we don’t read the hundred and one imitations of classic novels like Huck Finn anymore—and the hardest to follow. We all start out as writers with books and essays and poems we love, and that serve as our first spurs to try writing ourselves. I think back to what I produced in my younger days—a mashup of Sylvia Plath-y poems, Flannery O’Connor-like short stories, and occasional side trips into copying the Bronte sisters or the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. There’s a reason no one liked this work as much as I did.
The truth is, though, that we parents have a shortcut to the new eyes on the world Pound called for: our children. These remarkable creatures don’t need to make it new. For them it is new: every glimpse of the moon, every bite of strawberry fresh from the plant or raspy lick from a kitten. I remember one day when my son, then a toddler, asked me again and again why the sun rose and why a day was a day. I explained the earth’s rotation but he wanted the why of that too, in a series of questions that really became the question of why this world, with its particular days and suns, and not another one.
I couldn’t answer him on that score. But I remember thinking, with some awe, that his were the questions of our greatest physicists who search for the gravitational ripples that prove the Big Bang and try to understand why this world and not another one. These are the ultimate concerns of writers as well. What else do we want to explore but why life is what it is? And given that it is, how it works?
There’s no getting around it — having kids makes it harder to write in a practical sense. They wake up from naps just as you’ve figured out that scene or line of poetry that’s been eluding you, and then after a diaper change and a calm-down from the wakeup cries, the line or scene has left you again. Being a literary mama can make every day feel like you’re Coleridge, who lost two-thirds of his poem “Kubla Khan” forever when someone knocked unexpectedly at his door.
But kids can be our muse as well. When my son (who’s now a teenager) was little, I tried to write down all of his questions. Some, I remember, just seemed a little wacky: once he asked me if the stick figures of reclining people on my car’s dashboard controls were angels. (Huh?) Others I sympathized with: I’d like to know why a day is a day, too.
All his queries challenged me to imagine a world so fresh, so new to consciousness that each sunrise formed a riddle. I tried to imagine the world through his eyes when I sat down to write, using that question so beloved of children and writers both: why?
Susanne giving away one copy of her newly-released book, Make Me a Mother. Read the entry details here and read Literary Mama contributor Andrea Lani’s review here. Deadline to enter the giveaway is April 2nd.
Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects.