As a writer I sometimes am extremely self-critical. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the negatives and see only your faults rather than your talents. In many ways it’s in our nature to be critical, especially of ourselves. I am always reluctant to share my writing with others for this reason, frightened to let my books into the world fearing they might not be good enough. Yes, I’m a bit of an obsessive editor who constantly is trying to improve my works. And I never can explain to my eager friends why my book is just not ready yet!
However, today I realized not only am I not alone in this belief, but published writers long before me have also struggled with these self doubts.
In my American literature class today we were reading Anne Bradstreet, a brilliant Puritan poet from the early 1600’s. She has marvelous poems, and I encourage everyone to take a look at a few of them. However, my favorite remains “The Author to Her Book”.
The story goes that Bradstreet had a book that her brother-in-law published without her permission. My literature professor equated it to friends hacking your facebook when you’re out of the room to post ridiculous things. However, it’s a bit more extreme than that. Bradstreet wrote this poem as a reflection of how she didn’t want it published, comparing her book to an ill-formed child that she is sending out the door hoping only the best for. Read it below and see what you think.
The Author to Her Book
Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched 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 stretched 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 homespun 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 asked, say thou hadst none; And for thy mother, she alas is poor, Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.
So here is this brilliant woman worrying about what is going to happen to her book she thinks is “ill-formed” and not ready to be sent out yet. It amazes me to think far greater writers than I have also worried about their works. So I guess I need to worry less and just be brave and send things off. Because I’ll always see my books as rambling brats not yet ready to leave the home.