Tag Archives: insecurity

Rescuing Myself

7 Nov

photo (26)I’m really good at being my own worst enemy. Having just delved into this whole writing thing a little over two years ago, I’ve realized that although I’m relatively new at honing my craft, I do have something to share with others through my words. But I’ve also found that I’m much too eager to rip off all my clothes and dive into that dark pool of you suck way more often than is good for my literary health.

Case in point: I belong to a writers group which meets twice a month where we share our work in a positive and accepting environment. Recently, the group has gone through some changes (several writers have left and quite a few new writers have joined) and at our last meeting, I was  impressed as well as a bit intimidated by the high quality of writing that was shared. Some of these folks are real writers—novelists, poets, essayists, even professional editors—who have been at this writing thing for years. Not only do they write well, but they read their work with drama and flair. Also, a number of them are originally from the literary Mecca of New York—another reason for this Santa Barbara native to feel like a West Coast country bumpkin.

When it was my turn to read, I shared a chapter of my novel which, in my opinion fell a bit flat. Perhaps because the new members hadn’t heard the previous chapters, they were a little lost as to what the story is about or maybe they just didn’t like it. Whatever the reason, I didn’t get the Woot-Woot response I was hoping for and that fertile seed of doubt about my ability as a writer began to sprout. By the next morning it had grown into a thorny bush of angst and uncertainty.

Now, I understand that self-doubt is a zealous assassin of motivation and inspiration, and I’m the first one to encourage others to keep at it no matter what. My mantras have always been: Find the lesson and Look for the positive, but this time, I couldn’t seem to get my head above that murky water.

Usually, the morning after my writers group, I’m inspired and excited to write more. I had carved out three hours in my schedule that morning to write, but I just couldn’t get myself to sit down at the computer. Instead, I busied myself with mundane tasks around the house that I’d been putting off because I’d been so busy devoting myself to daily writing. As I folded laundry and scrubbed the bathroom, the words you suck burned through my thoughts like the caustic scent of bleach. I was ready to throw in the towel and soon decided that maybe it was a good time to take a break from writing my novel.

Then after two days, something interesting happened. I began to itch to get back to writing. I missed interacting with my characters and finding out what they were going to do. I realized that the process of daily writing was really something I look forward to—it’s something I love doing for myself and my perception of what others thought of my writing was just that—my perception. I live my life, I experience my reality—so what really matters is what I think.

I said to myself, Boy, Lady—you’ve really got a lot of nerve—acting so critical and damning toward yourself—you  would never dream of treating a fellow writer in this way—enough already!

So for today, I’m rescuing myself from that murky pool of despair and I’m choosing to believe that someday, someone out there will enjoy reading what I have to write. And if not, well I’m going to just go ahead and enjoy writing it anyway.

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The Hell with Her

15 Aug

MessyPapersYesterday, when I was cleaning out my bedroom closet, I stumbled upon a stack of yellowed papers hidden inside a box that I’d saved from when I was in college.

Inside was a story I had written during my senior year while attending USC. I had been a music major, but on a whim, I signed up for a creative writing class with none other than writer T.C. Boyle. Back then he was just being recognized as an up and coming writer and as I was unfamiliar with his work, I just thought he was some intense, uber hip/quirky guy who had multiple ear piercings and wore black leather pants and red high-top tennis shoes (an outfit not uncommon in the 1980’s.)tc boyle

Up until taking that course, I hadn’t realized how much I really loved writing (or should I say how much I hated it—writers, you know what I mean.) In that particular class there were many different types of writers—some better than others, but it seemed as if everyone had something interesting to say. Well, almost everyone.

There was this ditzy, freckled-faced sorority girl with overly highlighted hair who spoke with the thickest valley-girl accent I’d ever heard. She wrote the most inane and ridiculous stories—I don’t even remember what they were about—just that they were terrible. One day, this girl brought in a large foil-covered plate of chocolate brownies to share with the class. Usually her over-the-top perky demeanor set me on edge, but that day when I saw her passing out the brownies, I thought to myself, How nice of hermaybe she’s not so bad after all. I’d skipped breakfast that morning so I took the biggest one on the plate. “Oooh,” I exclaimed loud enough for the entire class to hear, “I love brownies!”brownies

Mid way through the class I began to feel very strange. I thought that perhaps I was coming down with the flu or something so during the break so I left to go rest in the lounge. When lying down on a cot didn’t stop the dizziness, I realized I needed to get home as quickly as possible, but my apartment was twenty minutes down the 10 freeway in Santa Monica. Halfway there, passing the Robertson Blvd. exit, I suddenly realized that I was high—higher than I’d ever been in my life, and that what I had just eaten in class was a pot brownie. I gripped the grimy steering wheel of my 1979 Toyota Corolla and tried to focus on keeping my car between the dotted lines. This was not an easy task because for some reason, the lines kept moving back and forth.

Fortunately, I didn’t kill anyone with my car or get pulled over by LAPD. I made it home to my Ocean Park apartment where I spent the afternoon intermittently cursing the stupid sorority girl and cradling the cold toilet bowl while vomiting up chocolate slime.

I fumed for days—how dare she give me drugs without my consent! I’d show her—I would call the President of USC and report her; I would get that privileged sorority bitch thrown out of school and ruin her life! I was going to stand up for myself and fight for what was right.

Of course, I never did any of those things. When class resumed the following week, all I did was approach her and mention that I didn’t know there was pot in the brownies and that it wasn’t very nice of her not to let me know.

“Whoops! I’m totally, like, sorry,” she said, giggling, “I thought you knew because you said how much you loved brownies.” She sat down at her desk and crossed her skinny acid washed Guess Jeans-clad legs. “Oh, well,” she chirped, “No harm done—you seem like you’re okay!” She smiled, showing me her perfectly bleached teeth, “Like, just consider it a little surprise gift from me to you!”

I wanted to smack her. Instead, I sat back down in my seat and said nothing, my anger dissipating as my comfortable fear of inadequacy put its arm around me like a best friend.

When the semester was over, T.C. Boyle called each of us into his office for an individual conference about our writing. I was taken aback when he told me I was one of the better writers in his class. I managed to squeak out a “thank you” and get out of there as quickly as possible as it was way too uncomfortable for me to think that I had any potential with my writing. I finished my senior year, received my degree in music and never wrote another word again for twenty years.

Last night, I stretched out on my bed and read the story I found in that dusty box. I was surprised to discover that it was really good. It was funny, the dialogue was believable and my descriptions were quite visual. How is it that for so long I believed I wasn’t a good writer?

I still carry around some anger toward that stupid girl from so long ago—no, not the sorority girl from class, but the other one—the one who was too weak to stand up for herself; the one who was so terrified and insecure that when she was told by an expert that she was good at something, she didn’t believe it. It makes me sad that she spent so many years thinking I can’t instead of Why not?

Well, I say, the hell with her.