Another word I struggle with. My free-spirit Aquarian nature resists rules, conformity, gurus. Maybe it’s because I have listened to gurus and I did what they said and I got way too sidetracked too many times. Note to self–trust your gut. Which is why I love what Natalie Goldberg says about structuring writing: “Structure must be organic”. Yes. Don’t be a drone. Or the spokesperson for a zeitgeist that doesn’t resonate. Or the voice of your mother or favorite teacher or writer.
That’s also a metaphor for how to live. There is freedom in listening to yourself. It feels good to trust your instinct, tap into the flow, live your truth.
Yet, we need structure. Even Jackson Pollack, who painted from his unconscious, had a plan. As tuned in as we may be to our guts and our hearts, it is possible to become confused, have our electrolytes compromised, and we can convince ourselves of some pretty crazy stuff. And that is when structure or discipline are forces of good in our lives. Dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp said, “I don’t think that scheduling is uncreative. I think that structure is required for creativity.” And structure is required for living. There is a reason why we have seasons and days and nights and rituals. There is a structure to the universe, to society, to communities, so why should we be any different?
This reminds me of what my Russian sculptor friend Vera said to me years ago, “You have to know the rules to break the rules.” I think we need to understand the structures of our universe, our families, our workplaces, the medium in which we create art. We need to tap into these rhythms of our traditions and religions and nature, and find our own particular way to break the rules.
So I start out most poetry writing sessions by reading a poet. I want to know what the recently published poets in “Poetry” have to say. I want to return to my favorites like Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath and Jim Harrison to remind me what good writing is. And then I take a deep breath, say my little prayer about getting out of my own way, and dive in.