When Writing Gets You Down

Read Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.

On writing and rejection:

You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now…I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. There is only a single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.

On boredom:

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourslef that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.

On “owning” your work:

…[I]f out of…turning inward, out of this absorption into your own world verses come, then it will not occur to you to ask anyone whether they are good verses. Nor will you try to interest magazines in your poems; for you will see in them your fond natural possession, a fragment and a voice of your life. A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity. In this nature of its origin lies the judgement of it: there is no other.


3 thoughts on “When Writing Gets You Down

  1. Thank you. Sometimes I forget these things… and want to write nasty notes to my agent about why things aren’t happening faster, because surely it must be her fault. This is *just* the reminder I needed.

  2. Randa–
    From Philip Levine, about publishing:

    “Let me give you a little piece of advice about publishing. If you can live without publishing–that is if you don’t have a job that depends upon publishing–then just wait as long as you can. Wait as long as possible… until you’re thirty, thirty-five. And don’t publish all that crap, and don’t get involved in that whole world of connections and ass-kissing, networking and all that shit. Stay away from it. Meet some people who care about poetry the way you do. You’ll have that readership. Keep going until you know you’re doing work that’s worthy. And then see what happens. That’s my advice.”

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