Fear of Success? Fear of Failure?

This Friday night I am giving a reading for Humanities Washington as part of their Bedtimes Stories: Night Flight fundraising dinner. I should be trying to write new poems right now. This very minute. Instead I am merely writing out my fear of failure. I am the only poet in a group of fiction writers (and one non-fiction writer). I do not have a story, but a sequence of poems. Is this a problem or an advantage? Is the difference up to me?

Sometimes I try to remember back to the very early 1990's when I first began to publish my poems, and then later, in 1994, when I returned for a second graduate degree, an MFA in Poetry at the University of Oregon. My mother thought I had lost my mind. I was leaving a good job with Amnesty International to move across the country to Oregon (where exactly was Oregon?) to start a second graduate degree in my mid-30's. Who does that? I can see why she thought I was deranged.

I don't remember being afraid of failure then. Perhaps it's the fault of a faulty memory. Perhaps the adventure of moving West, of leaving my job, of claiming poetry in a public way-- perhaps that protected me from fear. By this Friday night I hope to be able to live in the present moment; I want to enjoy listening to the other writers of the evening: Garth Stein, Charles Johnson, Jenny Shortridge..., I want to be comfortable with myself as a writer in the world. Wish me luck!


  1. Oh, but I think you do have a story, which you tell so beautifully in your poems.

    The theme sounds delightful. Have fun!

    Last Saturday I gave the first reading I've done since the late '70s/early '80s. I thought I'd be nervous but I wasn't. The setting was intimate, in the library of an old church. I enjoyed it so much.

  2. You will be wonderful, I'm sure! Just as I'm sure Maureen was! People are rooting for you from afar, and they will right there, too!


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