Earlier this week, I had a first in my writing career. A piece of humorous southern fiction that I penned appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature: http://www.deadmule.com/fiction/john-davis-jr-the-legends-of-mailman-george/
For the first time in a long time, I actually felt anxious about publishing. As a younger writer, I worried whether people would think my pieces were good enough. Over the years, as I completed the MFA and had other major milestones in my poetry writing, those fears waned. I began to adopt the attitude that I knew my work had worth and quality, and if others disagreed, so be it. I found that sentiments within the literary community were so broad that my work would never be pleasing to everyone. I wrote with my particular audience in mind, and if others also happened to enjoy it, so much the better. This wasn’t to say that I disregarded workshop advice or the feedback of diverse others, but at the end of the day, my work was just that…my work. I could compose, edit and revise with the best of them, and that confidence laid my worries to rest.
Perhaps this was why I was taken aback by my own boyish hesitation and nervousness when my fiction appeared. This funny southern tall tale was unlike anything I’d ever done, and I suddenly felt the need to seek out validation like a kid in school. All those old reservations about whether my work was good enough suddenly resurfaced. After all, I’d built my reputation on a substantial foundation of poetry — branching out into another “unsafe” genre like fiction was reason for apprehension, even intimidation.
Once the piece appeared, some of the trepidation subsided, but even now, I look at my writing there and fight the propensity to hem and haw about it. Maybe my skepticism over my fiction-writing abilities will subside like my poetry worries did, but for today, I continue to walk on eggshells around this newer genre in my publication history. Like any art, with proficient practice comes greater assurance. Maybe I need to read and write more fiction; maybe I need a few more workshops. I’m not sure. But I do know that engaged time tends to cure insecurity. This summer, as I’m busy planning book events and producing more stanzas, I plan to prioritize writing beyond the purple curtain of poetry. Hopefully, as the old saying advises, practice will make perfect, however I choose to define that abstraction.