Keep Pumping Debris Into That Vacuum

Just about last week, I had one of those inferiority complex-triggered meltdowns. The kind where I convince myself that everything I have ever written is trash, and tell myself that I should never write again.

The trigger for this meltdown was silly, as my meltdown triggers do tend to be. I had been browsing, and chanced upon the spoken word poet, Koo Kumi’s tweets, where he was publicizing some other poet’s Instagram account. Her name is Tryphena Yeboah, and he said she had the best Instagram account in Ghana. While that may have been quite the exaggeration, after I took a gander, I couldn’t deny that I was blown away entirely – by the amazingness of her poetry, deliberate layout and filtering, and quotes form other, far more famously acclaimed poets of colour that she read. I was amazed at how amazed I was, even while there were only averagely 50 posts on her account.

So, what did I do? I liked her pictures. I followed her. I closed Instagram. I went on a Twitter rant about how I was going to retire from writing forever. I reopened Instagram. I deleted most of my Instagram poetry, doing a full sweep through my profile. I considered deleting all the poetry on my blog as well, but that process is long, and I am lazy. But the bottom line is that I was shaken. Badly.

In that moment also, I realized that I am a fraud. Just about a few days before this meltdown, I had said something to one of my very great friends, Tronomie – which came back to me in the midst of all my false thoughts. Tronomie does this thing where he listens to music he thinks is absolutely amazing, and then declares to himself and whoever will listen that “It’s things like this that show me that I’m wasting my time with this music thing.” I hate it when he does this, I swear. He’s literally the most musically genius person I know at this point in my life. Cross Jon Bellion’s production skill with Gallant’s voice and you have Tronomie’s fundamentals.

The thing I had said to him, though, in all gravity and seriousness, was this:

“Do not let your admiration of someone else become deprecation of yourself.”

And as I was saying it, I believed it. But me in my fraudulence, in the middle of that meltdown, couldn’t see how it was possible that I had been writing anything more than rubbish next to this girl who should have been by all rights, selling internationally by now. Fraud? Yes, fraud.

More importantly, though – do I really believe, even after the heat of the moment, a week later, that I write trash? Yes. Absolutely. So what am I going to do about it? Keep writing, of course. Am I going to henceforth keep my poetry safely locked up in a notebook so no one else can read it? Absolutely not.

I do not regret deleting all the posts I deleted. I will not regret doing it again some time in the future. Deleting, purging, is cathartic, healthy at times. And I’m in control of my profiles. If I don’t like something being on them anymore, I see no legitimate reason to suffer through having it be accessible.

The title of this post came from a poem I wrote, called These Are Not Questions. Pumping debris into a vacuum is now one of my go-to phrases when I feel the futility (both real and imagined) of just releasing and releasing and releasing all these words that sometimes feel like they are serving no purpose. This is for the moments of “put the pen down” and “never pick it up again”. (All phrases from the poem.)

So, if I am indeed producing rubbish – debris – why need I keep pumping it into a vacuum? Because it is the only sensible course of action. If there is anything mortally worse than pumping debris into a vacuum, it is piling up the debris inside yourself.

This isn’t about the vacuum. It’s about me, and my relationship with the debris. A wonderful human being whose name is stylized EDWVN, told me something profound: your job as an artist is to make art to the best of your ability. What happens after you put it out really doesn’t have to be your problem. In any case, many times you can’t control its reception and interpretation.

The motto of Vision Inspired Music, the record label that has changed my life faster than anything ever, is “We do it for the art.” And that’s the simple reason why it’s necessary for me to keep pumping debris into this vacuum – because I do it for the art. The art need not suffer for my own insecurities.

While I fell apart publicly, as I tend to do while I have Internet connection, I received a DM from another wonderful friend called Barbara. She quietly reminded me of one of the world’s most famous poems, the Desiderata, by Max Erhmann – a poem which a few years ago, I had had nearly memorized. Particularly these lines:

“If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter,

for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

Additionally, to conclude by quoting another of my own poems, Stop Waiting For Permission., I must ask: While you are sitting there sulking about how poor a poet you are, instead of getting off your stupid butt to actually do the work that will eventually make you better maybe, “Who told you the world would wait for you?” Because it won’t.



13 thoughts on “Keep Pumping Debris Into That Vacuum

  1. Been there. A different perspective helped me out of it though, I realised my style is me. It’s always going to be me, the more I better my version of what I like doing the most, writing, the better at it I will be. I had a friend who wrote amazing stories, books even, he actually finished 3 novels. He would write about ghosts and werewolves and vampires, till it got to a point where that’s all I wanted to do too. Needless to say I sucked at it, being the Pure African Literature enthusiast that I’ve been my whole life, I just could not relate with all that, and it reflected in some of the worst things I’ve ever written. In the end it took taking a step back and realising we are all, as human being an embodiment of what we have been through. It’s pointless bearing the burden of someone else’s success above yours. Keep your head up, admire and keep at yours. Keep bettering your version of this writing thing which so many, oh so many people do.
    Essay but, I needed to share this. Thank you.

    1. Oh my goodness! You’ve said something that has been on my mind. I just neglected to add it to this particular blog post. Your style. Exactly that! Sometimes I am envious of people who write poetry that is just undeniably, classically, lyrically beautiful. And I have discovered that I write more poetry that is rough and uncut. And the difference in style does not take away from its relevance or quality at all. This is something I am teaching myself (or trying to). Thank you for your comment!

    2. Essay? Ha, people like me actually like such essays 😎. Great quotes from your comment:

      “It’s pointless bearing the burden of someone else’s success above yours.”

      “I realised my style is me.” 🔥

  2. Lol. Girl! You have no idea how much I can relate. Try (what we call Tryphena), is a mate from school, and I get the same feeling every. damn. time. i read her poetry. Heck, even her instagram captions are effortless poetry. Lol. But then I realised what makes art so special is that it’s diverse, and comparison really has no place in art. So I’m learning to believe that the nonsense lines I write deserve to be called poetry. But if it helps you feel better, the first time I heard you perform poetry at an Ehalakasa concert, I had a meltdown too. I was like, “What?? I’m a joke! What have been doing with my pen, with my keypad, with my liiiiife? And she’s 16! I didn’t even know I could write at 16, and now I don’t even think I can’t write. I’m such a waste” Lol

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