I’ve been thinking this week about ego and self-esteem when it comes to our creative work.
Count me among those who tend to undersell their work. I get intimidated by other writers easily and I never think I’m good enough.
A little humility and a pinch of desire to improve go a long way in the arts, but they’re like salt and pepper: it’s possible to go overboard.
Or a better analogy: When driving, if you leave your foot on the brake pedal then you’re never going to get anywhere.
These last couple months I feel I’ve been driving around with the E brake on. I’m not so down on myself that I’ve been incapable of writing, but it’s been a battle.
And then a funny thing happened last Wednesday. Everything clicked. It clicked after a few hours of conversation with a colleague, Tyler. We talked about intimidation and how I should stop putting other people’s work on a pedestal above my own. He said nice, encouraging things, the way one might coax a bunny out of hiding.
The next day, I finished my first real short story draft of the semester. It needs a lot of work, but it felt good to get a whole new story down on paper again. My funk of self-loathing has lifted and I am full of ideas. I finished a weekly assignment that normally takes me four hours of groaning and procrastinating in half an hour, for example.
I know the slump will come back. Like a children’s book villain, The Slump always comes back. But I am reminded again of why I chose to make writing my priority this year: the sheer joy.
And it helps to be surrounded by people going through similar things. I am so grateful to have met such a wonderful group of people and to count myself among them.
I could have continued writing on my own, without heaving my whole life into my boyfriend’s Honda and moving four hours away from everyone I knew and then watching that Honda pull away towards a long distance relationship. But I wanted to utilize the resources MFA programs offer. And, yes, as much as my artist’s soul shakes with indignation, I wanted to have a degree that would let me teach at the college level. But more than either of those things, I wanted to be around people who would “get it” without my explaining “it” (many of them can explain it in better words than I, I’m sure).
I told my boyfriend after my first week of classes that I’d found my people. I think community is, perhaps, integral to making good art. We need other people to puff us up when we’ve deflated ourselves.
Friendship, in other words, is good for the soul. And the soul is what makes art.
The basis of all these blog posts, as some of you know, is my weekly response to my required introduction to graduate writing course. This week, we read about whether or not poetry is dead. And why nobody reads poetry anymore but everyone writes it. My response this week was about what was missing in all the discussions: the role of the internet.
So instead of putting up yet another essay, this week I’m just going to share with you a few internet things I feel are worth sharing.
First, there’s this NSFW music video from Bo Burnham. I watched Burnham’s show “what.” at a friend’s house last year and immediately bought his illustrated book of poetry Egghead the next day. Burnham is someone whose career was made on and by the internet. This music video for Burnham’s song “Repeat Stuff” was released just six days ago and I love the message. Remember, this is NSFW.
Though I don’t consider myself a poet, Billy Collins is a big part of why I applied to Stony Brook’s MFA program in the first place. Before I’d ever read Collins’ poems, I saw this Ted Talk from 2012.
A friend of mine got me hooked on Broodhollow, a horror comic by Kris Straub. I can’t describe this series and I can’t recommend it enough. You might remember Straub if you remember Candle Cove, one of the creepiest short stories I’ve ever read.
Look at all the different things the internet provides. Just this morning I was sent a link to a poem I hadn’t read before. The poem is “Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado” by Simon Armitage. It begins:
Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado, armed to the teeth
with thousands of flowers,
two boys entered the front door of their own high school
and for almost two hours
gave floral tributes to fellow students and members of staff
beginning with red roses