I don’t know who said it originally, but whoever it was is right: “You should do the thing that scares you.” Or something close to that, anyway.
Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re afraid of poisonous spiders you should go buy one for a pet (some fears are survival-based, after all), but it does mean that you shouldn’t let thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do something keep you from ever trying it.
As writers this could mean many things. Maybe tackling a particular genre, or subject, or style, or narrative voice. Maybe someone told you men can’t write believable female voices. Maybe you think no one will read a book written in the second person. Maybe you think you suck at memoirs. Maybe you’re right about all these things, but are you right because you tried and failed or because you’re too scared to make the attempt?
Poetry is not my thing. Never has been. I like reading some–The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, for example, is great–but writing it has always seemed too hard. I have this in my head despite the fact that my AP high school English teacher–a woman who was notoriously stingy with compliments–told me that the poem I turned in as a response to Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women was one of the best things she’d ever seen at a high school level. If interested, you can read an excerpt of the poem here (the original, not mine) and I found this awesome comic strip here.
That being said, I started writing a book about two musicians and knew going into it that I would need to come up with song lyrics. I think that somewhere in the back of my head I had the vague idea of asking someone else to do it for me, but how realistic is that? And do I really want to rely on someone else’s vision for something as important as this? Nope. I don’t. I shut off my inner editor and started writing–I mean, it’s a first draft, right? Things can always be changed down the road.
I surprised myself. This writing form that I’d kept away from so long is suddenly consuming me. I’m writing more songs than I can possibly squeeze into the book (and I’m squeezing them in anyway, hoping most of them will make it through the editing process) and I’m actually liking them! I’m going to take a chance and post the song I wrote this morning. Keep in mind it’s a first draft, but feel free to tell me what you think!