I have this friend.
She is fascinated by the ordinary. She inhabits the earth, the wind, the Real Things that we miss. She notices breath and notices clouds. She feels the tremors beneath our words. Because she embraces what is true, she elevates the ordinary. Her noticing makes it sacred and she invites us to see through her eyes, to feel through her heart.
I wanted to share her poet-soul with you. She said yes. Alli Rogers is visiting with us today, talking about writing and inspiration:
Michelle: Are there metaphors or symbols that are particularly meaningful to you that show up often in your work?
Alli Rogers: I am constantly writing about water. As a child growing up in Iowa, we spent a lot of time in the summer at my grandparents cabin near the Mississippi river. That was probably where my fascination with water began. It was just so mysterious and powerful. Why was the water moving so fast and where was it going? Why were the sandbars constantly changing? Why was my grandmother so scared of the current? I later became acquainted with the ocean and its overwhelming beauty that still calms and terrifies me all at once. Water represents a longing often in my writing, it remains for me an image of our journey through life, and it illustrates a unique take on the biblical truth of weakness being strength.
I also tend to come back to the moon and stars in my writing. I find it interesting that these two things are sources of peace as well as fear for me. I suppose I write about that which confounds me, in my attempt to make sense of it, as well as to remember that God is God and I am not. The fact that there is so much out of my control or understanding is in fact proof that God exists, and the beauty of it all is proof that He is good. That is how I see it.
M: Can you let us into your process a little bit?
AR: My process has changed with different life seasons but a couple of principals have been good guideposts for me. First, the idea of working regardless of inspiration has been something I come back to. Inspiration is wonderful and every artist and poet depends on it, but you cannot wait for it to hit before you pick up your pen. That kind of thinking also negates the value of the learning that happens through writing many bad poems and songs. Each throw away is part of the process, or at least that makes me feel better! It helps to work regularly to get your creative muscles in shape so you are ready when the inspiration does come. Madeline L’Engle says it like this: “One must write every day. Otherwise when it comes time to get out of the way and listen to the work, you will not be able to heed it”.
The truth is that I have gone long stretches where I’ve let my creative self get lazy and I have paid for it. So this is my ideal process, one that I thrive in, but it has been hard to implement in these years of raising young kids.
The second principal which I picked up from a songwriter friend is that when inspiration does hit, just write and edit later. if you’ve experienced it you know it is like riding a wave. When you are on it you don’t think about having perfect form or balance, you just go. It is the same with writing. Editing comes later. Editing can be painful but that is another topic of discussion that I could talk about at length!
My process is essentially: Write as often as I can, about everything I can. Write to pray, write to process life, write to remember, write to apologize, write to understand, write to grieve, write to celebrate, write to give thanks, write to notice. And then after that, edit if needed (it usually is) and decide if it’s purpose is to share or not. Sometimes songs never get shared and that can often feel like food spoiling on the counter. Little deaths. But I think there is something essential there also. Even a discarded apple core can become food for the earth and maybe it is like this with songs.
I sure hope so.
Thank you Alli!
This is one of my favorite things: to open all the blinds on a Thursday morning and fill my space with the sound of Alli's voice singing the things I didn't even know were in my heart. You can listen to her music here:
Alli’s latest release Breathe is on iTunes click here.
Her website is AlliRogers.com
And here is a gift for you from her generous heart. A song to listen to while looking out the window: