Creative Life Truths: Fear is Necessary

Creative Life Truths: Fear is Necessary — Write RightAs a writer or artist, ruts come easily. The finished product may be good, excellent even, but it falls within acceptable limits. As an example: my poetry. My standard style employs short lines and couplets. I like it; it gives room for invention. However, it quickly becomes “du jour”—in graduate school, people could identify my poems by the lines, no name or signature required. The form grew restrictive, definitive.

Fortunately, one of my professors forced me to face my fear of attempting a different style. In his fall workshop, he asked me to write a “wild poem,” a poem directly opposed to my usual bent. For me, the exercise meant exploring longer lines and, at least somewhat, a return to personal narrative. (It was a narrative transformed; I chose a “mock epic” style in which to write my lengthier lines. Thank you, Orlando Furioso.)

I faced that particular fear, but in encountering it, I discovered another: I no longer knew how or what to write. My stereotype broke beneath the exercise. The brokenness freed me, but I felt cut loose of my moorings. Now what? I wondered. What can I possibly write now that I’ve written that poem?

It took a while to devise an answer. I could blame the delay on graduate school; after the fall semester, I entered my final months of school, which included managing three classes, organizing a manuscript of poems, and preparing for my written and oral defense. I could argue I was tired, and, admittedly, I was. Finally, after seven years of school, I experienced the so-called “senioritis.”

Perhaps, though, fear drove the hesitance to write new poems. Fear said I wouldn’t write anything new or that I would fail in the attempt. I shrugged off the fear — I suppose I got fed up with myself — and started again. I read other poets and attempted new poems.

The action seems to have worked; I still write poems, although I need to get back into a regular habit of it. The impetus? It rises from a desire to create, yes, but it comes, too, from recognizing that fear is necessary. Fear, when directed correctly, leads me to where the good stuff is—perhaps a different style, an interesting image, or simply the willingness to be vulnerable and open.

Image: amboo who? (Creative Commons)