the moo of boo hoo


Dawn by Nan Lundeen
Dawn by Nan Lundeen

Silly title of this entry aside, I want to blog today about writing when you feel blue, when you’re down. It’s “when I’m weary of considerations;” it’s when “one eye is weeping/From a twig’s having lashed across it open,” as Robert Frost so brilliantly writes in his poem, “Birches.”

Last week, I wrote that when you free your creative process you will delight in the debut of stories you’ll find hidden inside.

Your stories will delight, but they may not all be happy. At times, pain or grief will surface. When that happens, should you cast those stories out because they risk bringing somebody down with you? I think not. I can’t tell you how many times Frost’s poem has brought me comfort. Frost balances the poem with the fun and risk of swinging on birches and with his choice to live. But it’s his five lines expressing the down-and-out feelings we’ve all had that I remember the best.

Consider the tenderness in Theodore Roethke’s “Elegy for Jane,” a student of his who was killed by a fall from her horse. He speaks of her: “the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;/ and her quick look, the sidelong pickerel smile.”

Contemporary poet J. Stephen Rhodes shares inspired work in his book of poems, The Time I Didn’t Know What To Do Next. Some of his poems address his daughter’s suicide. I was honored to share a podium with him at a reading in Greenville, South Carolina. His work expressed the hard edge of grief tempered by grace.

I grappled for words when we laid to rest a grandbaby who never had a chance at life. It was a bitter winter’s day, and our hearts felt as cold as the sleet stinging the open grave. Some time later words came to me in the form of a poem I wrote, “Digging for Mercy,” published by The Petigru Review. I share the last stanza of that poem with you here:


Grace, grant us wisdom

to wrench open our hearts

lest mercy meet a closed door.


Brenda Ueland, a 20th-century writing guru, said, “Writing is not a performance but a generosity.”

I agree. When you include grief or pain in what you share with others, you may be giving expression to something that another person cannot. You may be giving voice to pain. And that can be healing.

What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments. Please register and share your ideas. We promise we won’t share your email address.


6 thoughts on “the moo of boo hoo”

  1. As usual, Nan Lundeen gets to the real heart of why we need to write, regardless of circumstances. Nan makes it clear that any life event creates an opportunity for self expression, even those that are sad “beyond words.” Nan’s perfect examples of poetry written in sorrow have set me scrambling to find and read them.

  2. Great insight, Nan. Loved the title:) Certainly, it is in the more difficult times that my creative thoughts can easily fall onto the page. Perhaps, the longing and the vulnerability of the inner self likes to be expressed. Writing from a time of joy, however, brings balance and perspective back to my journal!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Catzellmann. This morning at worship service we heard Deb Richardson-Moore, author of The Weight of Mercy, describe her work with the homeless and disadvantaged at the Triune Mercy Center in Greenville, SC. I began to wonder if journaling and creative writing could help those suffering from homelessness, addictions, and other awful problems. Triune already has a visual arts and drama program. My writing mentor taught creative writing in jails and said she discovered wonderfully creative expression there.

  3. Writing that leaves out the sorrow and pain of life isn’t honest, and I think good writing has to be honest first and foremost. It’s difficult to write about pain and lose. I am still trying to write a story about my beloved dog. But joy without pain is hollow.
    Thanks for this piece, Nan. I think it’s an important point.

Comments are closed.