A NotGoodEnough Writer Under Kudzu Vines

It’s an old story. I’m a poet, but I fear I’m not a good enough poet, so I stop trying all together. I try to write every day, but I have this crippling fear that I’ll never get into a good Creative Writing MFA, I’ll never publish anything, I’ll never be heard, I’ll never be able to produce an entire book of poetry I’m happy with. Of course, then you say, “Never is only true if you don’t try.” Which is great when discussing the big picture, but a harder sentiment to hold onto in the day to day.

A writer writing about not writing is pretty much a cliché at this point, right? Everyone has been there, and everyone has worn out the irony of writing about it. Writing this now, I’m joining that group in the company of Kafka, Plath, and O’Connor. I’m also joining the company of a whole swarm of nameless people writing in journals and blogs. I see them in my head filling up several stadiums, the whole place twitching with anxiety. I hope it’s worth it for all of us, them and me; I hope we find some satisfaction and fulfillment writing. I hope we just write to begin with, actually.

It’s good but also strangely curse-like how many ideas I have. I’m the kind of person who wants to do everything. I want to see every country, I want to pick up every hobby, I want to speak every language, I want to read every book. This tendency has brought me a life of planning eccentric trips, embroidering and sewing, playing ukulele, learning Italian, and racking up an impressive number of purchases on Thriftbooks (I once made three separate orders in a day because I kept thinking of more books I wanted).

I’m the same way as a writer. I want to do everything, every genre, every cool idea, all at once. I’m scribbling ideas in a restaurant on a napkin or in the middle of the sidewalk when something’s occurred to me and it can’t wait or at three in the morning when I’ve just had a particularly inspiring dream. I’m scribbling ideas about poetry meeting film and poetry meeting artifacts of my heritage. I’m scribbling ideas for fiction books and nonfiction essays and just weird events that I think would be good fun, in writing or real life. Ideas everywhere that I’ve yet to follow through with. My world is covered in notes on post-its, emails to my self, napkins, the margins of my notebooks, rapidly engulfing my life like Kudzu vines cover the trees on the side of Southwest Virginia roads.

I always thought those vines were kind of interesting, maybe even beautiful. They’d give a kind of shape to the trees, and I’d see a woman dancing or a giant green hand slowing trying to catch a passing car or some kind of goblin hobbling along through the forest.

Do you see the hunched shoulders, the weight put on an unseen cane?
Do you see the young witch I see?

My ideas are interesting and beautiful to me and sometimes make me feel like all the possibilities in the world are open. But the Kudzu vine is an invasive species. It isn’t called “the vine that ate the South” for nothing. If you look just beneath the surface of all those little leaf ideas, you’ll find a dead tree that never saw that sun. I overwhelm myself with ideas. I want to do everything, and it seems like too much, so I do nothing. Sometimes I feel like I’m not a good enough writer to support my good ideas. Like I’m not worthy of what’s coming out of my own head.

So, what’s the solution? Well first off, reading this whole post to myself once in awhile might help. Because at the end of the day, insecurity is going to be a part of writing, but it’s ridiculous to let it stop me. Just reading it back right now, it sounds ridiculous that I let a fear of failing stop me from trying. After all, I only really have to satisfy myself, everything else is secondary.

Maybe it will also help to put myself on a schedule, to set little writing goals, to break those Kudzu ideas into little manageable chunks, to slowly take each leaf from that vine and give it back to the tree as nourishment, to bring myself back into the sun. (Have we lost the metaphor? I think we’ve lost the metaphor.)

Not every day is going to be a perfect day, but hopefully I can get it into my head that it’s not about being “good enough” or success vs. failure. I write because I want to write, the rest is secondary. Everything else is secondary.

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