Meet multiple award-winning nurse poet Cortney Davis. Also the poetry editor for Alimentum literary journal, Cortney has authored Leopold's Maneuvers and a number of poetry books. Her latest book is a series of essays, entitled The Heart's Truth: Essays on the Art of Nursing.
An active and working caregiver, Cortney finds joy in the revision process of writing.
AA: Give us a sense of your writing process.
CD: I find that, at least for me, the writing process is one part inspiration, one part making-my-self-sit-down-and-do-it, and two parts revision. I've discovered over the years that I really don't like to write-until I get into it.
AA: That's an honest appraisal. Take us through the process after the initial idea.
CD: I might have an idea or an inspiration, a vague and amorphous "something" following me around, but until I make myself sit at my desk and get to work, that inspiration goes nowhere (and can so easily be lost). And I can find plenty of excuses not to get to my desk: plants to water, bills to pay, floors to sweep, phone calls to return. But when I finally do get to writing-perhaps hours or even days later--hen the creative process takes over and I'm in another world. Hours may go by, but it seems as if time stands still.
AA: What happens in the next stage?
CD: Once that initial "blob" of writing has been done, once I have a rough draft or two of a poem or an essay printed out, I must let that initial work rest for several days. If I try to revise or edit too soon, I can kill any piece of writing. It's as if that initial creative burst, that fire, has to have time to cool before I can sift through the embers.
AA: That's an important point. We've all ruined work by going back too soon. What happens then?
CD: A few days or a week later, I can return and, in the cold light of reason and craft, re-vision the original work and make it better. Although I drag myself kicking and screaming to the initial writing process, I love to revise. There is nothing better than spending time re-reading, re-thinking, going deeper, looking at sounds and words and sense and taking that initial raw inspiration and turning it into something that goes beyond the first impulse, beyond the self.
AA: Nathalie Goldberg mentions "re-visioning" as well. What happens when you hit a dry spell? Or do you hit dry spells?
CD: Alas, I'm a slow writer; sometimes there are no inspirations, and so I must force myself to sit and stare at the empty page until something happens. There are plenty of times that an idea might arrive, but it falls apart in my hands or I can't do it justice. Rarely, very rarely, the urge to write is so strong and compelling, and a poem comes so rapidly, that it takes my breath away. Those are the shining moments every writer lives for. But, usually, my creative process is a plodding one.
AA: What's your advice to writers in general?
CD: Do the work; let it rest; look again and revise, all the while hoping that all my years of trudging have taught me something: to do the work even when I find it difficult, to have the patience to wait, and to trust that mysterious inner voice that shapes the final product.
Visit Cortney at Cortney Davis