In the last two weeks I’ve had two pieces of good news about my poetry.
The first reaction was to whoop and run around the room. Eventually though, the adrenalin fades.
And the questions return – were my poems really worth these accolades? Surely not. And what happens next? Should I be writing something better, and will I ever be able to do that?
I know this sounds really ungrateful. But I think many of us don’t actually know how to accept praise and acknowledgement. I suppose imposter syndrome is a natural condition for many poets, especially female poets and it’s hard to shake that off even when someone says yes to our poetry.
I wonder how other people track their successes. One poet suggested that we should write each piece of good news down and fold it up, put it in a jam-jar which we could look at on the desk.
I simply note down rejections or acceptances on an Excel spreadsheet for submissions. Perhaps that doesn’t make me feel happy enough about a success.
Part of the issue is about expectations. Will expectations for our future work be inflated by what’s happened, and can we measure up to them? Will the subjects we favour run dry?
It is tempting to think it is easier when there are no expectations. No one gets disappointed.
But that’s just defeatist. I am, deep down, very happy that someone believes in a number of my already-written poems. It means that I can keep on writing, can change what I’m doing, grow and develop and hope there is still something there worth the reading.
And of course, having any success is a rare and lovely thing in a crowded poetry market.
I know what my late mum would say. Ditch the humility, and thank your lucky stars.