On Doubt and Bad Reviews
Doubt is easy. You welcome it, your old friend.
Poet Edward Field told a bunch of kids,
Invite it in, feed it a good dinner, give it a place to sleep
on the couch. Don’t make it too comfortable or
it might never leave. When it goes away, say okay, I’ll see you
again later. Don’t fear. Don’t give it your notebook.
As for bad reviews, sure. William Stafford advised no credence to
praise or blame. Just steady on.
Once a man named Paul called me “a kid.” I liked kids
but I knew he meant it as an insult. Anyway, I was a kid.
I guess he was saying, why should we listen to kids?
A newspaper described a woman named Frieda being asked
if “I was serious” and “she whistled.” What did that mean?
How do you interpret a whistle? This was one thing that bothered me.
And where did Frieda ever go?
Copyright © 2020 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.
“Students of any age often ask about doubt—how writers or artists bear it, and how we break out of it. People speak less of bad reviews, but sometimes they're shadows hovering. From a distance, they can feel funny.”
—Naomi Shihab Nye