Currents: What I’m working on, by Helen McDonald

In recent weeks I have been aware of a light tap-tapping on my shoulder, sporadic but consistent, that I’ve been trying to ignore. Waving it away like a bothersome fly, I finally began to tune in after receiving my fifth, albeit encouraging, rejection from a literary journal. 

I hasten to add that I have been fortunate enough to have had a number of my poems published, in Australia and overseas, so I know that the tap on my shoulder is not a gentle suggestion to pack away my pens and give it all up. My thinking has changed from the years when a ‘no’ from a publication would send me into a spiral of rejection with thoughts of ‘I’ll never be good enough!’ My mantra now, thanks to experience and the unwavering support of Elwood Writers, is: ‘this poem hasn’t found a home yet’. I’ve come to realise that it can all come down to a suitable ‘fit’ – whether the publisher or journal editor can find a place for this particular poem. It might not complement other work chosen for the collection, or indeed may not be what the editor has in mind. Of course we won’t always hit the jackpot. I’m jostling for recognition in a field of highly talented and creative poets. The way I write won’t appeal to everyone, and – this is an important point – one editor might love the piece, while another won’t be moved at all. In many cases it comes down to an individual’s choice.

I think the message I’m now receiving from the universe, is maybe it’s time to step back and reflect on exactly what I have been saying for all these years. I write because I have to and there’s always more to say.  It’s my way of making sense of where I fit into the whole chaotic turbulence that is life. Affirmation is incredibly important to all artists, but so too is trusting in oneself. 

So I’m taking time now to gather my poems into a collection that will say: this is me – my work, my thoughts. This is how I navigate this world. And I hope to learn something about myself along the way.