Cars Don't (Usually) Blow Up

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." At a quick glance, this may seem like circular reasoning, but fear freezes us, keeps us from positive changes, inhibits our growth, and stymies our daily activities.

When I first started to quilt, I was scared of making mistakes. Until I realized that I could fix errors, buy new fabric, start over, change the pattern, or cover some things up, starting a quilt was paralyzing to me. Getting over that fear allowed me to experiment, to learn, and--most important--to learn from my mistakes and become a better quilter (who now embraces many errors).

When writing poems, many poets--from the seasoned to the student--have that same type of fear, whether it is conscious or not. They strive for perfection on that first draft, making something that should have some element of fun painful. It is often difficult for these folks to accept constructive criticism and revise their work, because writing that draft was truly hard work.

When I was in high school, learning to drive a car, my boyfriend, Nick, had to work hard to convince me that one wrong move would make the blow up. “Cars don’t just blow up,” he would tell me. Then the car of one of his friends just burst into flames one day (no injuries). And I never learned to drive.

No, I’m kidding! Of course I learned to drive. It probably just took longer than it would have had I not had that fear and then had that fear reinforced. And, Nick, if you are out there, I am a really good driver who had never had a car blow up.

There is always more fabric out there if you cut a piece incorrectly. Poems can be revised. One tap on a dashboard button (or click with your mouse when you are building your web site) won’t make your car or your computer blow up. Making mistakes, and living to tell the tale, goes a long way in conquering fears.

Another Roosevelt also had some things to say about fear.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Do one thing every day that scares you."

So write a bad poem, sew a crooked seam, delete a page on your web site accidentally . . . then revise, get out the seam ripper, and put that page back. And just keep telling yourself that cars don’t—99.99% of the time—blow up!

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