My Writing Timeline in Comparison to Emily Dickinson's Sequential Poetry History
Objective for Article
The reason I decided to write this history of my writing timeline is to try and pinpoint the exact point in time when I stopped writing, the reasons behind why I stopped writing, and the point when my inspiration for writing returned. It has always been important to me to write because this is how I find meaning and make sense of life. The analysis of my article is in comparison with a study done by Dr. John F. McDermott on Emily Dickinson and the sequential history of her poetry. She has always influenced my work because her writing is always concise, but this article will compare our writing timelines and the events behind them that will try to sketch a pattern between her and me. According to Dr. John F. McDermott (2001, https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.5.686) he writes, “Franklin sequenced the poems according to when they appeared to have been first written using characteristic and frequent changes in handwriting, spelling, grammar, and writing materials. The dating was done conservatively by year, by season, and where possible, by month. When a poem was dated ‘early’ or ‘late’ in the year, it was listed as being written in the first or last three months of that year. Poems were then counted and grouped by year and season by the author. When no season could be assigned or the time was too broadly identified e.g., first half or second half of the year. Poems excluded from seasonal data but included in annual data. The first 4-year period, 1858-1861, is considered the period when the ‘flood of her talent is rising.’ As shown in figure 1, her productivity in 1858 and 1859 formed a distinct seasonal pattern with summer accounting for three times the productivity of fall and winter combined. Figure 2 illustrates a changing pattern. Although slightly more poems were written in the winter months of 1860 than during any other season that year, during the spring and summer of 1860 combined, she produced more poetry than during the fall and winter of 1860. The 1861 seasonal pattern was interrupted by an emotional crisis to be discussed.” (687)
My writing timeline is similar to Dickinson’s in that I was reclusive as a child, so I found writing and reading as an outlet because I was not allowed to socialize much because of the area where my mother and I lived at the time. In 1992, at age 10, I began writing. I began journaling, writing short songs, feelings, and dreams in a personal diary. In 1993, at age 11, I began keeping a journal specifically for quotes and poetry, but I did not write many poems I collected poems by other writers. I read the encyclopedia and wrote down my favorite poems from books I read; this was my own brand of research. In 1994, at age 12, I began writing poetry prolifically. I taught myself to rhyme, and I wrote mostly about love because this was my first time experiencing puppy love. My daily activities centered on thinking about love and reading love poems and historical romances. This was also the time I had my first mental breakdown at school. I got into a fight that caused me to become so angry I blacked out and did not remember the fight or what I was doing. This is in turn, made me more ‘zealous’ in my behavior and I did not know this was my mania. Before this event, I was very quiet, shy and had times where I would have an attitude, my mood always went up and down. In 1995, at age 13, the summer of 1995, I wrote many poems because I was getting ready to go to high school. I was disciplined, I wrote something down everyday even if it was just a journal entry. I found love and comfort in words and writing. I wrote the class poem for my 8th grade graduation entitled, “When Reaching a Dream, When Saying Goodbye.” I was on a natural high for my craft, and it was triggered after the fight I experienced. In 1996-2000, ages 14-17, I wrote even more in high school, and my freshman year I won a writing contest for my poem I submitted entitled, “Free.” In 1997, I became editor of our newsletter, but I stopped my sophomore year because I became frustrated with having to do most of the writing for the newsletter. In 1998-2000, I did not stop writing completely, but I wrote mostly journal entries than poetry. My inspiration had slowed down significantly with the many pressures I experienced during high school. In times past, I wrote every day because poems would ‘come to me’ in my mind as I told my mother, so kept a pen and notebook on hand. In 2000-2003, ages 18-21, I began writing after the adjustment period from graduating from high school, working over the summer, having my first ‘adult’ relationship, and starting college. The responsibilities in the real world overwhelmed me, and I began having extremely negative thoughts. My mother checked me into a psychiatric hospital the summer of 2001.
In 2004-2007, ages 22-25, my writing inspiration was dormant. I had very little creative outlet, but I continued journaling from time to time, but not often. In 2008, age 26, I began publishing my poetry on Associated Content, and Yahoo! Voices. However, I was not writing consistently. In 2009-2016, ages 27-35, over an eight year period my writing ability began to resurface, and I self-published two books on Lulu.com which have been discontinued, and in 2017, I self- published two books of poems available on Amazon.com entitled, “Love Poems and Essays,” and “Monkey Bars: Children’s Poems.” I began journaling again on December 5, 2017, after the deaths of my first baby and my grandmother. I have been writing almost every day since.
Dickinson’s Timeline Events
According to McDermott (2001) Dickinson also experienced periods of extreme creativity and then a point of lesser inspiration, he writes, “As shown in Figure 3, the 4-year period of intense writing 1862-1865, presents a further major increase in her productivity. This surge was sustained, except for a dip in 1864 when Dickinson spent over one-half the year in Boston for a medical problem thought to have been an eye disorder. Her writing during that time was restricted by her doctor. After another peak in 1865, her productivity dropped off to a steady handful of poems each year until her death in 1886.” (687) McDermott (2001) also suggests of Dickinson, “It seems possible, considering recent research studies of community populations that have identified high recurrence rates of affective illness is adolescents with vulnerabilities such as female gender and depressive cognitions, that this melancholy may have recurred in seasonal form at the beginning of Dickinson’s most productive years. These years divide in two, the first 4 generally characterized by an increase in productivity in the summer and a reduced poetic output and pessimistic mood in the winter.” (689)
In conclusion, my anxieties stemmed from trauma at an early age that caused me to withdraw mentally form social situations, which I still struggle with because I often do not feel comfortable socializing. In Dickinson’s case, the article states she suffered from “Nervous Prostration.” I suffer from Schizoaffective Disorder. When in those times I could not find inspiration to write, I longed for the written words and creativity. I longed for making up rhymes, and in 2018, I have written 36 or 37 new poems based on career pursuits. McDermott (2001) asserts of Dickinson, “Emily Dickinson has long been considered a complex figure by her biographers with many contrasting if not contradictory sidings to her personality: withdrawn and reclusive on one hand, assertive and ebullient on the other. Another possible explanation is that she may have suffered from a recurrent affective disorder, with the well-known emotional and cognitive fluctuations that are part of its course.” (689) As a result, I think even though Dickinson and I were two different women, from two different time periods, we share two things: writing poetry, and nervousness. Even though our gift of writing prevails itself, we are also often both misunderstood by others.
McDermott, J.F. (2001). “Emily Dickinson Revisited: A Study of Periodicity in Her Work.”American Journal of Psychiatry. 158(5), 686-690. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.5.686
© 2018 Alexis Kenyatta Ellis