Day 20 of 31 Poems in 31 Days
The Other Kind of Stress
Poets can be a sensitive lot. In a way, that’s what poets are known for. Unfortunately, it can be a poet’s undoing. Writer’s block, in most cases, is simply a lack of confidence. A person gets so wrapped up in negative self talk, that no matter what they put on the page, it never seems good enough. When it reaches the point that the poet can no longer put words on the page at all, it has become a severe problem. Try to recognize when you are being overly self critical. Here are some ways that all people, including poets, sabotage themselves. Please note that I am adapting material from Walt Schafer’s book, Stress Management for Wellness.
Negativising: Focusing only on the negative aspects of a situation. For example, if someone reads your poem and has mostly positive things say, but you focus only on the criticism, you are negativising.
Awfulizing: Focusing too much on a problem or obstacle until you build it up into a disaster. For example, you decide you can’t write today because you can’t find your favorite pen and without that, you won’t produce anything good.
Catastrophizing: This is when you go into a situation expecting the worst. For example, you decide not to submit your poems to a poetry magazine because you “already know they are going to turn you down.”
Ovegeneralizing: This is when you take a single negative event or piece of data and apply it to a much larger situation. For example, if you write a bad poem, you decide that you must have “lost it” and you might as well give up. Plenty of good poems get written right after bad poems.
Minimizing: This is when you downgrade praise or an accomplishment. For example, if you get published by that magazine you thought would never publish you, you decide that it must have been a fluke or they didn’t get very many submissions.
Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high standards for yourself or for a situation. For example, deciding that you have to have the perfect word to finish a line and you can’t move forward until that word comes to you.
There are other ways to sabotage yourself but I think you get the point. Don’t focus on the negative aspects of your writing. Its good to want to improve, but don’t paralyze yourself with unreasonable expectations or poor self image. Just write.
Today’s Poetry Assignment
Write a poem that begins with a negative image or statement and ends with a positive image or statement.
Today’s Featured Poet
Sherman Alexie is a Native American poet, novelist and stand-up comedian. He is a prolific writer who probably doesn’t know the meaning of the words “writer’s block”.
- Review of The Business of FancyDancing and Old Shirts & New Skins
- Sherman Alexie’s Iowa Review Interview
- General Commentary on Sherman Alexie
- Alexie’s Web Site
Books of Poetry