9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 24: Fear, Excuses

You may or may not have noticed that this past week, the 9 to 5 poetry project was on unexplained, unexpected hiatus. I’m not going to make any “writer’s block” excuses or anything of the sort. The truth is, when it comes to writing lately, I occasionally experience a crippling fear that what I’m putting out there for people to read is never going to be “good enough.”

“Then why are you publishing unedited poetry to your blog, you silly creature?” you may ask. The answer is simpler than you think–they say the thing that scares you most is often the thing you need to do. The only thing that scares me more than poetry, the untamed monster of my undergrad years, is the fear that my work is not good enough. In challenging myself to write daily poems and post them to my blog with only that day’s worth of editing, I hoped to overcome two fears with one series of posts.

This past week, I failed myself. With two and a half weeks left at my retail job, I completely lost patience with every aspect of my situation–including this project. Especially this project, which felt like a shallow attempt to draw something meaningful out of that which felt like biding time and earning a few bucks before I got on with the “important” parts of my life. Truth is, I’m blessed to be employed and to be a writer, and even if I missed a week, I’m here to get back on track for the next week and a half of the project in order to prove to myself–and yes, to you–that I can do this thing. If I get even one worthwhile poetry draft out of it, it’s not a waste.

Today’s poem, therefore, is a lovely insular piece about writing and anxiety. Because I like my writing–including, apparently, my poetry–personal.


The “Chiclet” keys I chose senior year glare at me.
Picked out for the way they felt under fingertips,
Making each keystroke potent with potential.
Four years ago, doubt was not a word I understood—
Neither was “revision” more than the slight rearrangement
Of a comma or two, erasure of typos. My words
Were practically perfection.

Four years is plenty of time for the slow drip
Of habitual anxious thought to seep through, drench
The one untarnished piece of my internal landscape.
A spoken word could be unheard, misspoken—
But a thing I’d written down? Never!
Except, not so. My only outlet cut off by the grip
Of doubt’s gnarled hands on my heart.

The little white line of keys is worn with four years
Of words, of papers and stories straight from soul
To fingers, needing no conduit. Yet what of others?
The approval I sought and expected may never land.
And what am I to do? These words flung against cyberspace,
Call out not just to you, but to the girl who was me,
Curled up against the band room lockers, notebook in hand.

She knew no fear of failure, no notion of “not enough,”
As she scribbled stories about a vampire called Rupert,
About whom any resemblance to persons real—or imagined—
Is coincidental, or else comprised of high school daydreams,
Which at some point, I forgot I meant to chase.

Note: This poem dances around my anxiety and the way it has slowly encompassed the one thing that I thought was safe from my self doubt–my writing. Me and my pen (or keys, as it were) are still fighting through that forest of uncertainty, and I know we’ll get there. Eventually.


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