I’ve spent the morning sorting through the folder titled ‘WIPs’. Works in progress – only they’re not, really. There’s a piece there about discarded mail at the bottom of the ocean, which I haven’t touched since mid-2012. A piece about the legacy of old shoes that I haven’t opened for almost a year. This is hardly progress. I consider renaming the folder ‘Flotsam, Jetsam’. ‘Detritus’.
I’m searching for discarded images, ideas that I felt on some level had an element of animation – those things that moved me. This folder is full of them. It’s like panning for gold, shaking the mess around and hoping for some gleaming speck to surface and become my charmed destiny.
I find a poem about a comment my father made about a particular sky in 2011. I think about who we were in 2011. I wonder if the poem can still be salvaged, changed in light of the life that’s happened in between.
At the start of last year, I saw Robert Adamson talking at the Adelaide Writers’ Festival. He remarked, “Every time I finish a poem, I think it’s a miracle. Will I ever write another one?”
Having finished my Honours year on a high note, happy with my work and grades, my brain now feels entirely empty of ideas. Opportunities for me to direct my writing towards are plenty at this end of the year, and new years are meant to be filled with hope. But I feel like Adamson now, filled with dread. Filled with awe that I ever did anything at all. I wonder if I will ever work that hard again; if I will ever be so productive. I worry that I will never have another idea.
In the WIP folder, I come across the image of the slackened tongue in a dead body in a piece I don’t remember writing. It’s an image that showed up again more recently in a piece I do remember writing, and remember feeling like that image was new in my work. Preoccupation is an unconscious mechanism.
I can only show up, do the things, and hope that my preoccupations and prior brainwaves steer me toward something of value.