When Your Own Writing Intimidates You
Well, it happened. I couldn't put it off any longer. Yesterday, I celebrated my fortieth birthday. I spent the day volunteering in my son's classroom, picking my daughter up from cross country practice, and attending curriculum night at school. (Don't worry--I celebrated properly this past weekend at a concert by one of my favorite musicians from the 1980s and a surprise birthday dinner!)
I spent some time this past week reflecting on my writing, specifically, sifting through some of my old poems. I joke that I used to write very bad poetry, but as I looked back on some things I wrote a long time ago, it wasn't always so bad. I would sit in typing class in high school (yes, I'm showing my age here) and crank out the darndest things during the time we were supposed to be doing warm-up exercises. I still don't know where they came from. Here's an example for you:
What is my loss?
. . . a soul that cannot
be saved? A grieving
face beyond the shield
of the brave? My loss
seems great, though I guess
it is not. No one has ever
noticed the days I am distraught.
The turmoil never lasts, though
chronic it is. The anger subsides
though justified, it depends.
Who can be saved?
What lies in the shadows beyond?
What makes up the ingredients
of life's covalent bond?
Sure, it's not Pulitzer Prize-winning stuff, but it's still hard to believe I wrote than when I was 16. I'm pretty sure I couldn't write something like that when I was 36. And I wrote a lot more poetry than I remembered. I used to be able to sit down, put my pen to paper, and the words would tumble out before I knew what was happening. Looking back, it was a gift I never appreciated. I've actually started letting things I wrote a long time ago intimidate me. There's a little voice inside my head that says, "I'd like to see you write a beautiful poem now. Especially after spending all day writing service articles and shuffling your kids back and forth to their activities and then coming home and making dinner."
Why am I letting this voice intimidate me? Why am I so afraid to open up one of my manuscripts and start revising? It's almost worse than writer's block, because I know I've written material in the past that has promise, but I feel like if the muse showed up at my doorstep right now I'd slam the door in her face because I'm afraid of confrontation. My husband (who is not a writer but is always willing to offer advice) told me not to let these thoughts paralyze me. He suggested I just open up a blank document on my computer and see what comes out. It doesn't have to be a novel I've been working on or a specific idea. Just start typing and see what develops--I might be surprised.
I'd love to hear from others on this topic. Have you ever been intimidated by work you've created in the past? How do you move beyond those fears and doubts and keep writing?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who has recently discovered how fun Instagram can be, even if she remembers using the original Polaroid camera back in the day. You can follow her on Instagram @rlroberson.