Don’t tell me what to write!

You should write a poem about that.
Tell me a joke.
Can you take a look at this rash?

There are certain people in life who cannot avoid their occupation outside of the ‘office’. When people know what you do for a living they have a tendency to expect certain things of you.

Doctors and physiotherapists get asked for on the spot diagnoses. Comedians get asked to say something funny. Authors get told they should write about certain situations.

It’s funny. As a teacher I am never asked to correct someone’s spelling or grammar but, as a poet, I am regularly told I should write about this and that.

Oh, you broke the laminator? There’s a poem in that.
You know that kid who failed year 10? They’re going to uni now. There’s a poem in that.
Did you see that group of kids in their pyjamas, mourning their lost friend? There’s a poem in that.

Admittedly, there may be a poem in all of those situations but the minute you speak those words or echo their sentiments you’ve broken every creative bone in my body. If you think there’s a poem or a story in it, you write it. Let me come up with my own.

I’m not saying that I don’t have dry patches where inspiration and motivation have evaporated. I’m not saying I will reject every idea that is thrown at me. I’m just saying that you need to let me decide what the story is because the story I see in a situation is not necessarily the same one you see.

The broken laminator? Maybe the poem would be about the failed lesson plan or about the student who put the sheet in the wrong way or about the crushed self esteem of the laminator who can no longer fulfill their function.

The kid at uni? Maybe the poem is about the distractions they faced in year 10 or about that internal fire to be the best one can be or about the failure of a system that no loner suits our society or about the pride the teacher feels in knowing the student’s success, having seen the potential despite the dismal grades.

The pyjama mourners? Maybe the poem is about mortality or about stupidity or maybe it’s a comparison between those teens and the ones who, at the same time, were in neat, uniform rows sitting their exams.

Whatever the story is, you have to let me see it. It’s the same rebellious attitude you see when you tell your kids not to do something and they go behind your back and do it anyway. You tell me to write it; NO! You tell me the situation; I’ll see the story in it and put pen to paper.

Let the story evolve by itself, don’t force it.

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