It’s good that I don’t play poker. I could never decide what to discard and I’d lose my pennies every time. How do I know this? Just look at the folder I carry marked “Revisions.” It’s full of what in card games would be discards, threes and fours, no trumps. (Okay, I once knew how to play bridge, but not well.) Nothing wild. Ah, there’s the problem, nothing about these scraps of prompts and poems is wild. It’s “meh” at best. So why the hell do I carry them around instead of just tossing them into the recycle bin? It’s either fear or egotism, maybe both. I made these attempts at poetry and I tell myself there must be something useful in them.
William Stafford wrote a poem every morning. Did he get 365 keepers every year? I doubt it. So why can’t I admit to myself that much of this paper is just that, paper with ink strewn across it, not great, hell, not even good writing. It’s like a pianist practicing scales. I have 26 notes on my keyboard, and it’s good to know where to put my fingers, but that does not make a symphony or even an advertising jingle.
Then there’s fear. I suspect that every writer at some point fears that the next page will stay blank and that those past attempts are the only things staving off total failure and the wine of forgetfulness. If I have my salvage, I can save my soul, which in my case is attached to my sense of creativity. When I write I take part in creation. See how big this deal gets?
Instead of poker, I play solitaire, so if I lose, I lose to chance, not to someone who might stare at me like I had crawled from under the baseboard. There’s the ego-fear connection: my ego fears that the other kids won’t play with me if I don’t hold the the aces and faces.
Know what? I’m taking that folder out of my tote bag and starting fresh. Win or lose, I will relax and write what’s new, possibly wild, unexpected. Have you seen the YouTube video of an elephant playing the 12-bar blues? That’s me in another life. The one where I’m not afraid to try something new.
2 responses to “Know When to Fold ‘Em”
How true! Well put. I save every scrap, every rough draft, even when I rewrite 5 times. Time to give it up (not that I’m actually going to).
And leaving that folder at home (yes, I will clean it out) forced me to look at the present world instead of past attempts at writing.