Advice to Writers
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.
from The Apple that Astonished Paris (1988)
(c) material used for educational purposes.
- What are your writing rituals?
- Choose one of your favorite methods to avoid or delay the start of writing. Write about it in a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top way, exaggerating it as Billy Collins has modeled.
- Write a Captured Moment of a time when you were completely in the flow of writing and it was magical. Write it in enough detail that you could re-create the environment and mindset. Keep a copy of it at your writing desk and read it when you’re procrastinating.
- What advice would you give to a writer?