Crossing the line

On off course model.jpg

Taken from Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (Susan Jeffers, Vermillion 2007, 1987)

The reason I wanted to share the off course/ on course model (above) is because it reflects the writing journey I’m on at the moment. Susan Jeffers uses the model to explore how we should embrace mistakes and take a positive approach to ‘correcting’ wrong decisions in order to achieve our goals. She suggests that most of the time we are actually in error. This in itself is not a problem, but how we deal with it is. She urges thinking in terms of a ‘no lose model’ – it’s a sort of ‘learn from your mistakes’ approach where every ‘oops’ offers the potential for growth. In this way, straying off course cannot actually be viewed as a mistake – it’s simply an opportunity for learning.
I think Jeffers’ model is a useful way of thinking about the writing process. Last year I was worried about my poetry becoming stale. I wasn’t as excited by it as I used to be. So I started to experiment with found texts and suddenly I became more enthusiastic and creative. Since then, there have been many ‘oops’ moments, and I know there will continue to be many more. However, something interesting has sprung from them and I’m enjoying the writing process more. I’m also more open to new formats and platforms for poetry, and a little less concerned about getting work published (although I’m not abandoning that goal).
Jeffers is clear: trust your impulses, accept responsibility and don’t stick with, or be protective of, wrong decisions – correct them. There’s no reason why you should stay on the well-trodden path (in writing or in life) if that path is making you feel unfulfilled. Poetry can feel very serious at times. Reading and writing it can be intense and provoke some odd disquieting feelings. However, adopting the ‘no lose’ approach allows you to step off the path and experience new ways of creating without feeling guilty that you’re not doing ‘proper’ writing (you know the feeling, when you sit down with pen and paper and time to write but you’re doing it out of a sense of duty rather than a drive to create ).
I hope this inspires some of you to allow yourselves a little more freedom. Don’t get too anxious about you writing, just follow your instincts, even if these are a bit left field. As Jeffers puts it, feel the fear and do it anyway.

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