I recently signed up for yet another poetry email list, this time from the Poet's Market. I'm not yet sure if it's worth my time, but at least today their message made me think. Today's post from editor Robert Lee Brewer reads, in part, "Lately, there have been a ton of crazy cicadas ... buzzing around without any apparent pattern or thought, which has led to many of them ending up splattered across my windshield (gross!). Anyway, the crazy flight patterns of cicadas remind me of the crazy submission patterns of some poets. For instance, some poets will go long stretches of time without submitting anything. Then, suddenly and without any apparent pattern, they'll begin submitting everywhere they possibly can without any rhyme or reason..."
He is talking about submitting, which, it's true, does require planning and research in order to be successful. However, the actual process of creating poems is much more akin to the life cycle of the cicada. No matter how many wise writing teachers recommend writing every day, practicing and keeping in shape with sonnets and sestinas that no one will ever read, it's still the case that those bright moments of writing something people will actually want to read are few and far between. Yet, unlike the cicada's return, it's unpredictable (though sometimes it does feel like it will be 17 years until it happens again). My advice is: keep going (i.e. breathing, eating, journaling, etc.) but don't beat yourself up when you have to bide your time in the roots of trees before you're ready to grow your wings and keep the neighbors up all night with your incessant buzzing.