Friday, April 6, 2012
William Hazlitt said, “Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.” How eloquently accurate! I know poetry is how I make sense of my world and the universe in general. Poetry is how I get past a hurdle or an unpleasant phase in my life. But I can’t really say that there is one force that drives me to write poetry. Sometimes it’s an impressionable moment or an emotional surge that works as the muse while other times it could be a planned assignment or the needs of a commissioned piece. Whatever is the reason, ultimately, I have to feel the poem, and it has to consume me.
People want simple, one-line answers to complicated questions like: “When should I write?” or “Who should I write for?” or “How do I get published?” While there is never one correct answer, but there a few thumb rules that apply to writers overall. First and foremost, believe in yourself. If you don't, nobody else will. Be candid. Ask questions. Trust your instincts. Listen to your voice. Nurture it.
There is no shortcut recipe to sustainable success. Dedication, resilience, hard work, discipline, and positive thinking are the mantras to hang on to. Write everyday, write everyday, write everyday. It doesn’t matter how many pages, but make a habit of it. Waiting for the muse to show up to help you write, is all a myth. Like Pavlov trained the dog with a bell, get your brain and creativity to function everyday at the same time of the day with the tick of an alarm clock. It takes practice, but it works.
Be selective in who you show your work to and whose feedback you consider seriously. I am not saying people intentionally want to jeopardize your work, but it is inevitable when too many viewpoints are shared. Remember the cliché “Too many cooks spoil the broth?”
Also, don’t allow your failure or success to deter you from your path. Acceptances and rejections are a way of life for any writer. Learn from them, but don’t take them personally. Don’t be jarred by other people’s success and definitely don’t lose yourself to the well of competition. Remember these famous lines by Ayn Rand: “I don’t make comparisons. I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything.”
Poetry is a niche genre. And even within this art form, readers and editors have varied tastes. Not everybody will like your work. And that is okay. Every writer has his or her own audiences, so learn to make peace with the hate emails and bad reviews early on in your career. Basically, take the bad with the good in a stride.
Read voraciously. It is imperative. Just as important as writing everyday.
Don't let success ever un-ground you. Remember, nothing is permanent in this world. Writing might be a big part of your life, but it's not above humanity or relationship with friends, family, and peers.
Best of luck with your writing!
Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an award-winning writer, poet, novelist, author, essayist, educator, and blogger whose musings have translated into three chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, a nonfiction book of prose and poems (upcoming in 2012), and a full-length collection of poems (upcoming in 2013). Her scribbles have also appeared in several anthologies, literary journals, and online publications across six countries in three continents. Sweta has won two Pushcart Prize nominations, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards 2011, writing fellowships, and was short listed for the Independent Literary Awards. Taj Mahal Review describes her as "A poet with hauntingly beautiful talent." Sweta has held several artist residencies in Europe and America and worked on collaborative projects with artists from Zimbabwe and Australia. A graduate of Columbia University, she reads her work, teaches creative writing workshops, and gives talks at universities and schools across the globe. Sweta lives in New York City with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Poet Sweta Srivastava Vikram for National Poetry Month