In these last days before the new year, I’m going to rid myself of the clutter that I accumulated in 2010. I suspect you writer-types will know exactly what I mean: the extraneous "stuff" that litters our office space; the self-imposed limitations that hamper our creativity.
"Advice to Writers," by Billy Collins, seems apt for the task at hand. It’s open to interpretation, of course, but I think Collins might be giving a playful nod to those of us with messy traits and/or elaborate writing rituals. Maybe he’s encouraging us to drop our mindless tasks, in favor of actual writing. (Do you read that or something different?) Whatever its intent, this poem helped inspire me to create an "immaculate altar" of my own writing desk…"a clean surface in the middle of a clean world"…a welcoming space in which to lift my own "yellow pencil."
ADVICE TO WRITERS
By Billy Collins
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants that followed you in from the woods.