In between creative ruts and actual creation, the quiet, probing question “is this necessary?” knocks at your brain’s door and won’t leave. Does the piece even need to be created? Will it be relevant? Will it help us? Will the effort put into it translate in its payoff?

It’s pretty easy to discount the arts when you compare them to other things we could be doing to help others. You could be spending your time volunteering at the soup kitchen, or performing open heart surgery but as Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society says: “medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” Yes, you could be doing something that people recognize as helpful to others. But think about a poem or book that changed your life. It was helpful to you, no? The arts are still helpful to others if you let them be. If you’re feeling that you’ve been neglecting that part of you that you know is what others struggle with and there’s so much room for growth in that section, then write for others like you. Write so you can connect with others, understand, and be understood. The piece just needs to be somewhat relevant to your audience for it to be considered.

As for the necessity of the piece: that’s dependent on the writer. I can’t tell you how many times I just need to write, just to get the words out of me. I sometimes feel like a seeping scribble, or the embers that fall from the fire. A poem, read or written, is time spent trying to understand the moments that we know are significant but never stop to appreciate. And if I don’t write, if I’m not able to, I’ll have trouble sleeping or feel irritated. Thought and feelings pile up and are easier to understand once they become tangible on the page. The need to write is like the need for breath that can be suspended at times, but is needed more after a long time without. Poetry may be able to help save us from ourselves.

Poetry needs to be both written and read. Are there any poems you’ve read that changed your life?


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