A few weeks ago, I wrote about my struggle with writer’s block, and though I didn’t mention it at the time, this poem came to mind. Anne Bradstreet, the first female poet to be published in Puritan America, penned these thoughts about her work.
The Author to Her Book
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.
No doubt every writer understands the sentiment expressed here. Embarrassed at having her work published without her knowledge, Ms. Bradstreet wishes she’d had time to polish it more before exposing it to public scrutiny. The irony is that the words over which she worried so much turned out to be the very words that resonate with us today.
I believe that’s the way the creative process often works. The words we write reflect who we are, and our fear lies not so much in the possibility that the world will misunderstand their meaning but that the world will reject the value of the person who wrote them.
I believe the challenge for every writer, the challenge for me, is to revel in the joy of expression and cast off the fear of rejection. Though rejection may, to a certain extent, determine how we write, it should never dictate the reasons why we write. We need to move beyond the pressure of creating a perfect piece and free ourselves to write from the heart and believe that our words, like Anne Bradstreet’s, will one day resonate with kindred spirits.
Now is your chance to write, to inspire, to resonate. Where will you begin?