And why do we this? Because despite doing a podcast with him, the world will always need more Travelstead. Excerpt? Word.
Rumpus: This reminds me of the time I was on a long
run and a PSA came on the radio with Phil Jackson talking about breast
cancer and I thought about my mom—who is a survivor—and I started crying
profusely. But that’s not a question; my question is about anxiety and
whether you think there are any benefits to struggling with anxiety when
you’re a writer or artist?
Travelstead: In my
case, absolutely. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I try to borrow
the same motivations from my career as a firefighter and consider the
writing process as seriously as I do entering a house with black smoke
puffing from its eaves. In a poem any unconsidered line, word, or break
can have toxic consequences to the speaker’s authenticity, or intent.
Which is not to say I emerge from writing in the same state as I do
after a structure fire—I just may feel like it, emotionally.
any craft, or work in which someone takes pride and makes a living, I
can’t imagine anxiety not being a functional tool for producing their
best work. However, I consider it to be the best tool only when confined
to the final stages of the writing process, and stifling in the early,
creative stages to the point of analysis paralysis—that condition where
the writer smothers the poem by over-thinking it, or planning too much.
As a work is revisited and crafted I find anxiety to be helpful,
I write for an imaginary audience
that has ADD but that is also shrewd and discerning, and whose attention
I will lose if it intuits a writer’s lack of authenticity—both in terms
of my own struggle with the underlying tensions, and also of the
speaker’s within the narrative. As writers, if we’re minding our
craft—and a little lucky—then that struggle is passed along to the
reader. It’s not only a motivator, it’s also a defense mechanism for
combing out a word choice or movement that can throw off a poem’s voice,
or identifying whether a risky line inches too far towards