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What if I Never Write Again?
My worst fear, bar family tragedy, is that I stop writing. That I never write another poem. Or, more honestly, I am afraid of never writing another poem that I like. Because sometimes I like my poems and it’s a wonderful feeling. But more often than I care to admit, I do not like what I’ve written, and then I enter periods where I dread writing, lest I experience again disappointment in my own work.
I will share a few common copouts I tell myself to avoid working on projects that are not going well:
1. I don’t have the time. (Comment: this is a big one. I will tackle it in a separate write-up. Now I just want to say that we all have been given time, and minute by minute we are making choices on how to spend it.)
2. Nobody would want to read it. (Comment: don’t be too concerned with pleasing your audience too soon in the process. It can cause you to write in a way that is too safe. This is even more dangerous if you’ve had some success already, and you feel there is certain expectation for style, theme, genre, etc. Common advice I’ve heard is to write with just one person in mind – someone whose opinion you dearly respect. In my opinion, this person should be you. And if you are writing in a way that you yourself don’t want to read your own work, it may be a good idea to step back and determine why.)
3. Nobody would ever publish it. (Comment: unless you decide to self-publish, then publishing is something someone else will have to decide. Avoid spending your energy on matters that do not depend on you or you cannot help at this point in time. I will write separately about ways to maximize your chances of getting published.)
4. It’s not any good. (Comment: of course it’s not. Not everything you write is a blockbuster. Wisdom sometimes means knowing when to let go of a project and appreciate it for the learning and practice it has contributed to your growth. But if something is not good today, that does not mean that it cannot become better with more work, or after you have gathered more writing skills or life experiences.)
5. I’ll never write like so-and-so. (Comment: and that is a good thing! Write like yourself. If you use your own voice it will keep on becoming stronger and more distinct, and that’s one of the best things you can do for your work.)
6. I’ll never be as successful as so-and-so. (Comment: comparing yourself to others is both painful and damaging. You can try to understand why so-and-so had been successful and learn from her experience, but a good rule is to focus on your own work and make the best out of your own circumstances. And, for what it’s worth, so-and-so is probably comparing herself to someone else right now and coming up short by some made-up criteria.)
7. It doesn’t matter if I write or not. (Comment: here I can speak only for myself. I write because I love writing. And because I believe it helps me become a better person. And I know that matters – to me and to others around me.)
Maybe after all, I am not afraid that I will stop writing. Maybe I am simply afraid of becoming the person who gives up on her passions and dreams and sinks into the half-life of self-defeat. Terrifying, indeed.