As a writer, and as a person, I grapple with self-doubt, as I'm sure is true for many of you. But Sylvia Plath reminds me to move past this enemy I face every day to find the words, which want to be written. One of the ways I've been tackling my own self-doubt as a writer has been to find my way back to poetry. And the Plath Poetry Project has helped me do just that!
My calling to be a writer did not begin with fiction (unless you count that story from second grade about a turtle becoming king, or the other more fantastical tales I signed in crayon), but instead, began with poetry. I can still recite my first limerick I crafted, and still remember the moment I felt like a real poet.
In middle school, the mother of a childhood friend who lived at the end of my street was killed in a car accident, and the only way I could think to process the news was to write a poem. Now many might think the moment this poem was published was the time I felt like a real writer, and maybe for some the validation of seeing their words in print is that moment. I know all these years later the first time I did see my words published by an online magazine that, yes, it was an incredible feeling.
But the moment when I realized my words could help someone other than myself, is the moment I felt called to the page. That same childhood friend read the poem I'd written at her mother's funeral. I still remember the sound of my words from her mouth, voice so small; too young to have had to deal with such a thing.
Now fast forward. I am a writer. And while I love writing, really I do, there are some days, which are difficult. There are moments when the creativity isn't there, when the excitement is just out of reach; the times of day when I stare in front of a blank page hoping something will happen. And if I'm being honest, these are the days, which scare me the most. These are the days when I wonder if I am really a writer. For those non-writerly folk out there, this might seem completely nonsensical, and I assure you, it is, but I'm not sure how quite to explain where the writing comes from.
Alas, I digress.
It is in these times when I feel self-doubt more than anything else, which never makes the writing any easier. Sometimes our own self-doubts outweigh our self-worth, but still, we must continue onward.
While I mentioned writing poetry in middle school, I must also admit I wrote many a melancholic poem in high school as well. When I took Experimental Writing for the first time, however, I abandoned poetry for a new love of fiction! I started a book, which I am still working on today, some eight years later, and I started another book, which I refuse to ever look at again. And sure there were some poems here and there. I took a poetry class in my undergrad. I discovered that I am a writer who cannot resist the trappings of lyrical language. Through all of this, I never felt like a poet, not the way I had all those years before. I didn't feel like I had found my voice as a poet like I had in writing fiction.
The Plath Poetry Project, however, helped me find my way back to poetry. It helped me find my voice. I've been following along with this writing challenge since April and have completed twelve poems in the past few months. My poem, "Sacrament," was featured in the first retrospective of this project, and you can read that work HERE.
Now you might be wondering what this Plath Poetry Project is all about. The home page asks:
"What is the relationship between discipline, inspiration, and external pressures?"
The project serves to help writers answer this question. By following the writing Plath produced in her last year of life, I have been writing a poem (sometimes more than one) each day Sylvia wrote a poem, taking inspiration from the work she created. Not only has this project helped me feel closer to one of my favorite writers, it also brought me back to poetry. It helped me cultivate a pamphlet of poems, which has since been submitted for a contest, so keep your fingers crossed for me!
Two nights ago, I finished my latest poem for this challenge, and I was reminded that self-doubt is indeed the worst enemy to creativity. Since I've stopped doubting my ability to write poetry, to have a unique voice, to actually sit and write, I have felt more creative. And on the days when the words aren't quite there, I still find myself drifting toward a line or two that might grow to be something more.
I am hoping when I check back in at the end of this project that I can say I successfully wrote all 67 poems, just as Plath did in her last year of life. I find myself wondering more and more what kind of work we might've had from Sylvia today. But the thought is wishful thinking. It comes and goes. I open up to a blank page, and I wonder, and I write.