Not Interested In Being Fearless
Tips for finding direction
I’ve had a few people call me fearless in my life, even recently. And I’d like to set the record straight. I’m not interested in being fearless. I’m not Puss In Boots and will not be singing any songs about being your “favorite fearless hero” anytime soon.
I know I recently wrote a poem where I said that Princess Diaries was “not my fairytale,” but that was me committing to the bit (you’re allowed to do that). I actually really adore the Princess Diaries and other fans of the movie can probably guess where I’m going with this.
When Mia (the main character) is afraid of all the responsibility of taking on the throne, she reads a letter from her late father. In it, her father writes “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear.”
My art has always been more important to me than my fear.
In the context of “doing art,” especially one that tends to be confessional like poetry, a lot of fears can crop up:
Is this cliché?
Is this even a poem?
Is this good?
Does what I say matter?
If you add in performance you add even more layers of fear. Our appearance, how our voice sounds, how many people are there, etc.
There is no real fix for fear. There’s only getting better at holding it without letting it hold you back.
How you overcome your fear will be unique to you. I’m not a therapist, a doctor, or a mental health professional by any stretch, so I can’t hope to speak to the varied ways in which fear, mental health, and personal factors play into your life.
I do want to share 2 things that have helped me better hold my fear as a poet and performer.
Answer the question your fear is asking.
I’ve found that behind a lot of my fears as an artist, there is usually a question, which is probably why the fears I wrote in the list earlier are all framed as questions. “I’m afraid my poetry isn’t good” becomes” “is my poetry good?” And a question usually has an answer or, at least, a way to find the answer.
If you’re worried about the quality of your poetry, you’ve got to answer the question “what makes a poem good?” Oof. BEFORE we get too existential in this newsletter, let’s think of some realistic ways to tell if a poem is “good.”
First, do I, the writer of this poem, like it? (This one is very important.)
Do I like performing/reading it?
Is the audience responding the way I want them to? (or readers!)
Do my trusted peers tell me it’s good?
That last one has an important thing I wanted to point out, I said “trusted peers.” Not just any randos who happen to encounter your work and not hyperactive fan girls. Behind every “successful” artist is at least one (there’s usually more) trusted peer giving honest feedback to help the artist grow.
My own work is made better by having other performers and poets regularly review and critique my work.
Now, nowhere in that list did you find that the perfect poem is a well-structured sonnet with perfect grammar that’s won a bunch of awards. That was purposeful.
Find your direction as an artist.
There’s no easy formula for figuring out your direction, but figuring out what you want to do with your art can easily nip some fears in the bud. You don’t have to worry about performance anxiety if you decide that you don’t want to be a performance poet, for example.
Having a goal gives you something to work towards, and that can make fear easier to handle.
Ask yourself what you want and what it would take to get there.
Start small if you need to.
One way to start building towards the inkling of a dream is to spend more time with your work. On my blog this month I discuss how to develop a writing practice that works for you.
Spending more time with your work means you’ll have time to think about what that work could do.
Do you want to put on a show? Publish a book? See your work in magazines? Create a cool art installation? Just vibe? Do something else I can’t even think of? The list is as short or as long as you make it.
Go forth and create!
I’ve started putting together my next book manuscript.
I’ve started drafting my show for this summer’s Fringe Festival.
I bought some new shoes with the money I made at our house show. #artistlife
I will be featuring at the All Sorts Open Mic at PH Coffee on March 10th!
The first show I ever produced (outside of Poetic Underground) was at PH! I’m excited to be back in that space.
You can always read assorted pieces of my work on the publications page of my website.
4 Steps to Developing a Writing Practice
Developing a writing practice is essential to growing your body of work and getting to know yourself as a writer. There are 4 basic steps to do so. Truly, only 4 to get started.
Submission opportunities for your consideration!
Okay Donkey Magazine - open on a rolling basis
Defunkt Magazine - closes on March 31st!
Central Avenue Poetry Prize - closes on March 31st! ($25 fee)
A writing prompt!
It’s almost spring. Write an ode to warmth.
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