I’m used to being the heartbroken one in a relationship dynamic and while it propels some great poetry, it gets really old after awhile. In order to break patterns, one has to recognize those patterns and work towards breaking them, whether in writing or in life, and sometimes they intersect.

Time and time again, I sit down and look through my work and see what concepts I keep leaning on so I can stop leaning on those concepts. It’s how I weaned myself with my obsession with the word ‘ribcage’ in some of my earlier work. When I caught myself using lists too much as a narrative device during my return to fiction in 2010, I stopped doing it.

I didn’t stop doing it in relationships though. I thought I did though but I didn’t. I was letting my heart and chance dictate who I wanted to be with, like I did before, and while I finally made a good choice in my first relationship after my ex-wife, my own flaws of thinking future tense almost immediately in a relationship was part of the reason why it was doomed (kids, marriage, etc.). I did it again in the following relationship and it wasn’t part of the reason why that one was doomed but it failed. The pattern of writing poems about women doomed each relationship before a potential relationship, during a potential relationship.

I also decided to try something new and give people second chances, which as a skilled emotional surgeon, is incredibly unusual. That hasn’t exactly been smooth either (see the intro to Kill Author 15 for one example of this new thing of talking to ex’s backfiring). I understand now why second chances don’t always work based on pattern recognition. Once something is damaged, you shouldn’t try to go back and repair it in someway. I get that now.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been a villain. I’m not proud of this, exactly. I’m not proud that to someone, I’m Snidely Whiplash. It’s never necessary to ever hurt someone but sometimes, you have to be on the other side of the dynamic to appreciate being on the side you’re normally on. A pattern I have to break of being too polite, of speaking up when I should or just speaking about uncomfortable things, and I know I’m terrible at that sometimes when I need to be better at it, which can contribute to accidentally becoming the villain.

Study your patterns. Don’t be afraid to break them. Only when you choose to change them, will you evolve as a writer, as a human being.

Nathan Holic created a comic book version of “Just Do It” and HAM Literature was nice enough to publish it here. You can hit me up for a copy of the chapbook it’s from or you can download it on your Kindle here.

I have confirmed that on Sunday, May 6, 2012, I will be featuring at Portland Poetry Slam. I’m working on more dates right now for the Northwest and I’m incredibly excited to finally perform out there. It’s a great way to turn 33.


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About J. Bradley

J. Bradley's is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals including decomP, Hobart, and Prairie Schooner. He was the Interviews Editor of PANK, the Flash Fiction Editor of NAP, and the Web Editor of Monkeybicycle. He is the author of the poetry collection Dodging Traffic (Ampersand Books, 2009), the novella Bodies Made of Smoke (HOUSEFIRE, 2012), and the graphic poetry collection The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014), illustrated by Adam Scott Mazer. He is the curator of the Central Florida reading series There Will Be Words and lives at iheartfailure.net.

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