I’m taking a poetry workshop this semester, I don’t like it. Just ask my family, my friends, the barista at Starbucks, I’ve been pretty vocal about it. The other evening as I was in the midst of complaining about the fact that we are workshopping a poem every other week for a total of nine workshops one of my friends said, “That’s not that bad.” This comment rubbed me the wrong way and I spent the next couple of minutes trying to explain to her why it was in fact, that bad. Here’s the thing, my friend was right, the poetry workshop really isn’t all that bad, or at least it shouldn’t be. It is good for me to stretch, to write things I don’t feel equipped to write, and to learn from my peers and teachers.  But the reason her comment put me on the defensive is that so far this semester the poetry workshop has been incredibly discouraging. It’s not just the feedback that I’m getting on my poems, although I now brace myself when I walk into class, it’s not even that I don’t like writing poetry and I’m not every good at it, although I don’t and I’m not.

The real reason that I’m so resistant to this class is that it feeds the fear that’s always present, the voice that whispers to me when I’m stuck in traffic or can’t sleep. It’s the idea that I can’t do it, that I’m not cut out to be a writer. The belief that I am woefully inadequate and am just pretending. The fear that I will never be good at any of the things I want to do and will have to do something else.  I would probably be better able to take and process the criticism from my peers if I was more confident in myself and believed more in the material I’m letting the class read. I am afraid to write because I’m worried I’ll discover that I am actually really bad at it.

But fear doesn’t get to run the show anymore, fear isn’t the deciding factor in my life.  So I’m going to keep going to class, and not just because I pretty much always go to all of my classes, but because I want to.   I want  to go because this is the year of doing things even though they scare me. I want to go because I want to succeed, and in this case success doesn’t mean writing the best student poetry my teacher has ever seen, it just means writing poetry and turning it in every other week. It also means complaining about it a whole lot less (but old habits die hard so I’ll still need plenty of grace in this area).

So, I guess I’m trying to be brave, and while poetry class isn’t truly that bad and is normally nothing to be afraid of, the way I see it bravery is relative.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

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