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Archive Fever

lovelydesignI’m sure that everyone experiences symptoms of OCD, or else has at some point in their life. I mean, I don’t know a lot about mental illnesses, but I feel the restless leg, the compulsion to check every unread email, and distinct and desperate desires to have things done, checked off, put away, etc. (and neatly).

And I must’ve learned some willingness to let go of things along the way, because my floors have to get pretty bad before I’ll sweep, let alone mop. But there are also those moments when I begin to panic because I can’t remember something I wanted to write down: something to add to the shopping list or how my son said “Jerpity” instead of “Jupiter” the other day. It’s that compulsion to record every little thing my husband likes to call my “archive fever” (he was Derrida’s student at UCI), which I suppose makes sense because I am going into the field of Library Science. But to make things even worse, I panic that what I write won’t really capture what I wanted to.

In general, I’ve been a bit reluctant to do much writing lately. And when I do write, I stay pretty safe, don’t get very personal, and avoid difficult topics. But mostly, it seems like all I do is read. Which isn’t bad to do, I suppose, but I feel a lack of balance, and the beginnings of that panic. Being at the Exponent II Retreat last week has inspired me to write–to start finding out what I have to say about things and not devote all my time to solely taking things in. One of my favorite things about the retreat had to be the many opportunities for women to share stories, and that has made me want to find the words for my own again.

To honor my decision (which is one I come back to repeatedly), I have dug out this poem about writing. And maybe it’s not complete, but here is what I have. Whether or not it is finished, I’m sure there will be others. Maybe a series of Archive Fever poems. It’s time to put aside the fears and make that syrup.

Sometimes When You are Afraid

Sometimes when you are afraid that writing something down
Will not fully preserve it,
You do something engaging
That helps you forget the fear and keep from crying
Like practicing the knots you learned at camp
Or flossing your teeth—

And when the fear is waned
You try anyway
To keep whatever it was you wanted to keep
By putting a pot on the burner
Adding sugar and water
And making it into a long, light syrup.


{Image from lovelydesign.com}


I am a children's librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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  1. Caroline says:

    Brooke, you are going to be such an awesome librarian! Your compulsion to organize is really a great quality that I desperately wish I possessed. I often joke with Mike that I have ADD, and that’s why I’m disorganized.

    Even though I don’t have too many OCD traits, I share your fear – that my writing may not really capture what I want it to. Other than blogging, I don’t really write much, which is sad since I often felt I had a great novel in me somewhere.

    I LOVE your poem. ok, this may be stupid, but is the syrup symbolizing your writing? It’s not a reference to an action that makes you forget your fear, right?

  2. Brooke says:

    Thanks for your comment. I think you need to start that novel. Today.

    Yes, the syrup part is about writing. I hadn’t realized that it could be confusing, but thanks for pointing that out.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’m sure most people would have gotten that. I didn’t pay enough attention to your first line in the stanza – when your fear is waned. That should have told me that the person was moving beyond those other actions.

    Incidentally, is there a reason you chose “is waned” over “has waned”?

  4. Deborah says:

    I go through writing droughts and floods. Once I went nearly three years without writing a poem — and then stayed up all night writing a 17-poem song cycle. Compulsion. I understand why people have personified this feeling into a muse — and love that she is generally a woman.

    I hope we hear the fruits of this new energy. I love the slices of life I see through your photographs and poems. You have a colorful internal world . . .

  5. EmilyCC says:

    Brooke, I think this is one of my favorite poems of yours. I love the imagery of making syrup.

    It makes me think sometimes, I wait too long to write things down and the syrup gets burned, turns dark and bitter.

  6. KiriClose says:

    Hey, beauty!

    How about not writing for weeks? Spend time thinking/UNthinking, feeling during that time of non-writing.

    This writing situation you may be in might be an ‘alarm clock’ to you to do nothing but absorb, UNthink, feel, listen, & nothing—slacker things that are necessary to add (sometimes) to your particular style of the craft.

    Some writers need a fix everyday (like Laurel). Others will move only when the phantoms come on their own.

    Find yours, but as a writing teacher, may I advise doing nothing for a while.

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