Monday, February 08, 2010

Fear of failure in writing

I'm reading Kim Addonizio's new book on craft and the writing life, Ordinary Genius. In it, she makes a statement that really caught me. To paraphrase her, most writers allow fear of failure to block their creativity and keep them from finishing a poem, a book, or persevering in the writing life. I know I have abandoned promising drafts because I became stuck on the tide-lashed rock of that fear, the feeling that I'll never be a good enough writer to pull off a poem like this, so why keep trying? I have abandoned (at least for awhile) ideas for books because I have in the past failed to publish prose books (novels, a memoir) and the idea of trying again seems hopeless.

Somehow, the idea of jousting with those lances of self-negation occurred to me recently, and it was even before I started reading Kim's book. I went back to the novel and have dedicated late nights to working on it (who needs to sleep that much?). I am learning that my "mulch pile" of abandoned poems has potential lurking within it, the way heat steams inside a mulch pile.

Fear is a ridiculous force, it never created anything, while I have created lots of things. I'm thinking about ways to abandon it, rather than the in-process products of my imagination.