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Learning to Write for Myself

A while ago, I wrote about how Richard Siken got me into poetry and how I recently rediscovered his work. This rediscovery not only encouraged me to reread Siken’s Crush (several times), but it also inspired me to start producing some of my own content.

Now, I also spoke previously about how I don’t like poetry. Well, not that I don’t like it, per se, but I do find a good majority of poetry difficult to read. Richard Siken’s Crush is somewhat of an exception to this rule, as I find his voice and form uniquely compelling.

My aversion to (most) poetry is nothing against poets themselves. Rather, it speaks to my inability to take things seriously—a flaw of mine that became even more of an obstacle when I started trying to write poetry again.

I’m a big fan of channeling my thoughts and feelings into artistic expression, and that’s something I’ve especially taken to during self-isolation. Yet, trying to get my thoughts into poetry was frustrating. I found it difficult to put feelings into words that I found fitting, but weren’t too melodramatic or overemotional.

After struggling for a hot minute, I eventually realized the root of my problem: I don’t know how to write for myself. The poetry I write is not for anyone else to consume; it’s solely a creative outlet for me. I never share what I write, and I don’t plan to share it. But, even though I was only writing for myself, I still found myself wary of judgment.

It’s easy not to take yourself seriously when you’re afraid that others won’t be able to either. It’s easy to judge yourself when you’re afraid that others are going to judge you. I had internalized this fear of what others may think of my work, so, even when I was only writing for myself, I still found myself projecting that fear onto my work and judging myself for any so-called imperfections.

Learning how to write for myself required me to let go of the fear of judgment, both from external and internal sources. It required me to accept that not everything I produce has to be flawless and that there is still value in imperfections.

Learning how to write for myself has taught me how to stop shying away from emotional complexity and how to push through discomfort. It’s given me a safe space to express myself and to break out of my comfort zone. More than anything else, it’s taught me that my worth and the value of what I have to say extends beyond others’ perceptions of my art.


Madison Prentice

Chapel Hill '23

Madison is a first-year from Cary, North Carolina. She's an Advertising & Public Relations major with a minor in Spanish for Business. You can find her on Instagram at @mcprentice or on Twitter at @mcprentice8.
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