The young Van Gogh didn’t quit

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Van Gogh painting sunflowers by paul gauguin
[Image: Van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, Paul Gauguin via Wikimedia Commons]

Last week I was talking with my sister about the reboot of my blog. She’s been blogging a long while, as well, primarily about kayaking in Southern Maine. In fact, her blog led to a book deal for a guidebook which will be released in the spring. Anyway! I mentioned to her that I had no big ideas about the purpose or scope of posts and the writing this time around. Right now, my intent with it — and with other things — is to simply open up the doors to see what wants to come in.

I opened my first post in seven months with a hat tip to the creative network I had when I was first introduced to blogging. So I guess part of why I returned was to shout into the canyon again and see who’ll answer this time. My second post was about an open mic I went to Monday where my primary experience was joy — the result of being in the room where we were all happy to share our work. And in a recent scan of Facebook, I saw this Fast Company article by Jeff Goins: “The Three Types of Relationship Every Creative Person Needs.” So maybe this is one of the things that wants to come in: connection.

Jeff opens with some background on Vincent Van Gogh’s relationship with his brother Theo:

“Vincent’s parents, along with just about everyone else in his life, were wondering when he was going to make something of himself. He may have been wondering that, too. And here was Theo, writing back and enclosing some money—bailing him out once again.

“What happened next changed the history of art. The young Van Gogh didn’t quit.”

The article goes on to deliver what the headline promises: three kinds of creative circles — a scene, a network and a community — that he says creative folks need. No matter how you label your support system, I believe in what he has to say. I do think relationships balance out the solitary, internal work we’re called to do.

Many times people in my life have sent (and continue to send) me back to the page when I’ve been stuck or wanted to quit. Earlier this week, during a teary conversation with my boyfriend in which I lamented all the things  — cold temps, short days, old habits, tired battles, new challenges… you may know these kinds of meltdowns! — I announced that poetry was a waste of my time because it wasn’t getting me anywhere (whatever that means). He reminded me that I write because I love it, and that poetry is something I need no matter what comes of it. One recent Sunday afternoon, I ended up sobbing on Jill’s couch about some feedback I’d received on a batch of poems. She put it in perspective and told me it wasn’t an option to let it stop me. I message Sarah and complain I just *can’t* write anymore. She says, “Oh, shut up. Set a timer for 13 minutes, and write to this.” And then she sends me a prompt. There have been times when I wrote just so I’d have something new to read at an open mic, times when a women’s writing circle inspired me, times when MFA deadlines kept me going, times when a Tupelo 30/30 challenge pushed me. You get the idea.

Don’t see what you need? Get out there and start something new. Open the door and see what wants to come in. It’s not just good for the soul, it’s good for the poems. Here’s Jeff:

“Without a community, our best work will stay stuck inside us. We need peer groups and circles of influence to make our work better.”


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