How could Billy Collins have known how I work as a writer? I clean, weed, sort, drive, sit still, then write. I love this poem.
Advice to Writers
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
And stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
You will behold in the light of down
The immaculate altar of your desk,
aq clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.
I wish I could say I took the photo. I give credit to Sarala and you can find the original photo here as she references the same poem. As a teacher I never have a bouquet of yellow pencils.