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You've Reached Your Writing Summit. Where to Now? Is the Only Way, Down?

John has many years of writing experience in poetry, short fiction and text for children's books. Basically, he just loves to write.

Wire sculpture

Wire sculpture

Striving for Perfection

Most of us always try to be the very best we can in all aspects of life. What do you do if, as a writer, you believe that you have already produced the best writing you are capable of?

It may be an article, essay, poem, short story, non-fiction book, or even novel that has set the bar so high that you doubt your ability to exceed or even replicate that standard again. But if that's the case, where do you go from here?

This is the quandary that I find myself in at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that my writing is so good that it can't be bettered, but that I have written something that I a so proud of that I don't think that I can ever better.


The Catalyst

The catalyst for my striving to come up with a great piece of writing was actually multiple rejections I received for a number of poems I submitted to a publisher for a national poetry contest here in Australia (see my article “Submitting Creative Writing for Contests and Publications"). This was quite a kick in the pants for me and gave me the incentive to try harder and to improve my writing, especially poetry.

I also had another somewhat ego-deflating experience around the same time. After receiving generous comments on Hub Pages for my children's fantasy series "Between the Floors" and encouragement to publish it, I decided to submit it to a book publishing website for editing and possible eventual publishing as an eBook. Peer reviews on the site however were far from encouraging and made me realise I had a long hard road in front of me before I had something good enough to publish.


Writer's Block

So, I hear you ask, what is this incredible piece of writing that can't be surpassed or even equaled in quality?

Well before I reveal that let me say that my standard of excellence may not be as high as others who have studied English Literature in higher education or teach or have taught these subjects at school. I have no formal education in the field of writing and in fact I still struggle with the intricacies of grammar and punctuation.

Therefore, although I sometimes write articles about subjects that I am passionate about, and occasionally a short fiction story, I consider myself basically a poet. I am still quite proud of most of the poetry I have written despite the publisher's rejection and comments that they weren't 'perfect', however this must have had some effect on me and I had been struggling to write another poem since, contracting a dose of the dreaded "writer's block."

I had been listening to a program on the radio discussing the Australian B&S Balls and was inspired to write an article "The Bachelor and Spinsters Ball (an Australian Tradition)." Though this was primarily an informational hub, it did include a poem I wrote on the subject. This actually broke my poetic drought and gave me a jolt of inspiration.


The Raven narrated by James Earl Jones

The Bar is Set

The B & S Ball article proved quite popular and left me feeling good about my writing again but it isn't the piece of exceptional writing this article is about. A few days later I was sitting at my desk with the intention of writing a poem and a few verses of Poe's "The Raven" kept invading my thoughts. I had intended to write something inspirational, but if "The Raven" was going to be my muse on this occasion it was more likely that whatever poem I produced would be more on the dark side.

The result was in fact..A Midnight Rendezvous - the 32nd Psalm

The first verse:

'Twas midnight when I chose to wander

Down the dark foreboding streets.

For my failed attempt at slumber

Is just one more of my defeats.


King James Bible:Psalms 32:1

King James Bible:Psalms 32:1

I have no idea where the idea for the subject of the poem came from but the words just seemed to flow onto the page (I always use a journal or notebook to write my original drafts).

When the main character said "I recite my favourite psalm", I had to pull out my Bible and read through the Psalms until I found one that was appropriate. I thought Psalm 32 suited the moral of the story perfectly. The fact that this character also turned out to be a priest also wasn't planned. I know this seems weird, but It's as though some higher power was guiding my pen. I was also lucky enough to find an amazing old black and white photo on "Shorpy" that suited the poem perfectly and I used as the main image.

It was a difficult poem to categorize being both dark and inspirational, and could also be seen as quite controversial. I was hopeful but not certain that Hub Pages' censorship would pass it, and thankfully they did. Well, as soon as it was published the poem I began getting comments and I was blown away with how positive they were and the number that began with "Wow!"

I know most of my fellow writers are very kind and rarely give negative comments, but so many of you said that this was my very best. The list of adjectives like "awesome, brilliant, amazing" used to describe the poem was also very humbling.


Where to Now?

Having written this poem on Hub Pages, then shared it on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter, I sat back feeling satisfied as I read all the accolades and generous comments. But then came the let down. As one hubber said, this poem was a couple of notches above my other poetry. So, where to now? How can I better this or even match it? If this is the best poem I can possibly write, or should I now concentrate on other forms of writing such as articles and short stories?

Or, maybe I should feel satisfied that my poetry has improved to this level and be confident that I can maintain this standard or even improve further?

I have tried to write three or four poems since "A Midnight Rendezvous - the 32nd Psalm" and everyone of them has ended up in the trash can. Should I be less critical and publish them anyway, after all everyone has different tastes and they will probably still find an audience who enjoys them?

Has anyone else had a similar dilemma with their writing, or is it just me that feels this way? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.


© 2014 John Hansen

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