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What does it mean to be creative at the end of the world?
One poem, one question, one idea at a time...
A few months and many deaths ago, I woke up exhausted, again. Every morning, I felt like I was rebuilding myself from the ground up. Waking up was hard. Getting to my desk to write was hard. Taking care of my body was hard. Remembering the point of it all was hard. On this particular morning, as I lay in bed too tired to turn the alarm on my phone off, my exhaustion morphed into anger. I was angry that, three and a half decades into my life, living had only gotten more difficult. And then my anger did something to me.
It’s difficult to explain. And — to be clear — in the moment, it didn’t feel like a revelation. But my anger brought me to myself, a mirror: yes, Saeed, you do have to rebuild yourself every single day. No, it will never get any easier. This is the work.
Those two thoughts became the twins that got me out of bed every morning. They gave me a sense of clarity that helped me understand why trying again was worth it.
Over the years, I have worked hard to appear fully formed, unmovable, perfectly determined. Fierce. I thought that’s what I had to do to survive as a black queer person and to be embraced as an artist in this country. “I’m so sure of myself, no one will dare question my right to exist as I am or to create as I want.” But our ongoing apocalypse has taught me that much of what used to work for us doesn’t work anymore. We need new practices in order to endure, and hopefully thrive, amid these new circumstances.
The months following that exhausted morning were the beginning of one of the most fruitful creative eras of my life. Three seasons later, I continue to make more art in multiple mediums than I ever have before. I know better than to point to any one cause — every transformation contains multitudes — but embracing my daily life itself as a creative process has given me a new joy and I want to share that joy with all of you.
The step-by-step, one poem, one question, one idea at a time, way of living has been liberating, on the page and off, and that’s what Werk-In-Progress is all about. In short, I’m using this newsletter, via two or three posts a week, to share my creative practice in real-time. You’ll receive new poems and essays from me, along with writing prompts and discussion topics inspired by that work. I might share and compare drafts of my work; I might send you a voice note as I think through a project. My dog Caesar will surely make some cameos. Good chaos is coming, y’all. Along the way, I’ll also share new work from poets I admire and interviews with them about their process.
Yes, we do have to rebuild ourselves from the ground up every single day. No, I do not believe life, as we understand it, will get any easier. But we are worthy of our process. We are the work.