Creativity and discovery,  Motivation,  Poetry

Throwback Thursday: “Make music of what you can”


Good morning, friends! Today I’m re-posting an old favorite for new subscribers…  

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid, I perched in the gnarly apple tree in my backyard and scribbled stories in a notebook with lined pages. In college I majored in English and journalism, but it took a few more years to find the courage (and the income) I needed to begin a real writing career.

The zig-zag path that led me here was marked with detours and littered with excuses. After graduation, I worked at other jobs where I learned some valuable lessons — including what I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. The poem below is the wake-up call I needed more than 35 years ago — but Charles Rafferty hadn’t written it yet. 

What dreams would you launch if you had all the time in the world? What’s fueling your hesitation? –CL

Against Hesitation
By Charles Rafferty

If you stare at it long enough
the mountain becomes unclimbable.
Tally it up. How much time have you spent
waiting for the soup to cool?
Icicles hang from January gutters
only as long as they can. Fingers pause
above piano keys for the chord
that will not form. Slam them down
I say. Make music of what you can.
Some people stop at the wrong corner
and waste a dozen years hoping
for directions. I can’t be them.
Tell every girl I’ve ever known
I’m coming to break her door down,
that my teeth will clench
the simple flower I only knew
not to give … Ah, how long did I stand
beneath the eaves believing the storm
would stop? It never did.
And there is lightning in me still.

Reprinted from A Less Fabulous Infinity, by Charles Rafferty (Louisiana Literature Press; 2006)


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Throughout my career, I've worked as a book production editor, travel magazine editor, features writer, and weekly newspaper columnist. My award-winning lifestyles features and essays have appeared in many national magazines and anthologies, including Newsweek, Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest, Victoria, Better Homes & Gardens, Bella Grace, and more. My weekly Sunday "Life Lines" column ran for 14 years in The Daily Tribune (Royal Oak, MI) and won a First Place (Local Columns) award from the Michigan Press Association. My essay collection, Writing Home, includes 93 previously published columns and essays focusing on parenthood and family life.


  • jan Lundy

    What a powerful get off your butt kinda poem! I can see how it must have inspired to launch out and risk being a writer. And why you carry it in your back pocket. 🙂

    I am hesitating getting started on the next book. I have 2 that touch my heart equally (the Mary book and “Pockets of Peace” based on my columns through MWF. I want to do both at once and that is not possible, though each feel equally important. So once we get moved in (in 9 days!) I do plan to launch in. Thanks for the swift kick….

  • Cindy La Ferle

    Jan, I’ve been waiting for that Mary book, and I will keep “kicking” your butt until you get going on it! That said, I am stalled myself on the Wright house memoir. I’ve been procrastinating like crazy, re-decorating the house, moving furniture around … anything but work on the book. I need to re-read my own post today 😉

  • Angie Muresan

    I hope you don’t mind if I adopt this poem, Cindy. I love how it speaks to me and motivates me to move forward. I have wanted to be a writer since childhood. My parents though, urged me to get a career that supports me financially, and write after I have that established.
    Financially the time is right, now. We’ll see if I get anywhere with my writing or not, as there is so much I still need to learn about the process of writing itself. However, blogging is a lot of fun!

  • Joanne

    Cindy, I see in your comments your contemplation of your Wright house memoir. What an intriguing idea … Do you suppose your puttering, re-decorating is a part of the writing, putting you in closer touch with the house before the words begin?

  • Cheryl Wright

    Feeling blocked and blaaah, I chose to read my favorite blogs. Slouched over the keyboard I began reading your words and then Charles Rafferty’s poem.

    Neither zapped me. However, both inspired me to open the document languishing at the bottom of my screen and resume work on my article.

    Thank you Cindy for sharing your story and for sharing Charles Rafferty’s Against Hesitation.

  • Kathleen Scott

    Thank you for this, Cindy. I was so fear-paralyzed I wouldn’t have made it past the first chapter of my book if my husband hadn’t occasionally kicked me out my cocoon. Now I know if I just keep writing the stories will make themselves up as I go.

    And still sometimes I hesitate…good to have a reminder.

  • Cindy La Ferle

    Cafe Pasadena: Here’s what I said in the post:
    “The poem below is the wake-up call I needed 25 years ago — but Charles Rafferty hadn’t written it yet.”
    So no, I hadn’t read it yet… 🙂

  • Cindy's Coffeehouse

    Cindy, my prayers are with you as you help your mother through this time. When I was going through that chapter of life with my mother, I found that I learned much about myself.

    Thank you for sharing this poem with us. It reminds me of something Teddy Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

  • Steve

    Hello – This morning while taking my walk, I passed a home on the hill behind me – and saw a red box with the word, “poems” on top in white letters… at first, I started to walk by – then I felt an urge to turn around, go back, open the box – and remove one of the poems. When I returned home, I read this poem by Charles Rafferty – beautiful imagery… Thank you, neighbor, for introducing me to Mr. Rafferty’s work!
    Would you have an email for Mr. Rafferty? I would like to post his poem on our blog with his permission. Thank you.

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