Tag Archives: self doubt

Worry

7 May

“When I look back on all these worries, img_2382I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

–Winston Churchill

You’d think that I would have learned my lesson after all these years. But I haven’t. I still wake up in the middle of the night, riddled with worry about the things that I have little control over. My go-to worry is usually about money—that’s there never enough of it—though compared to the rest of the world, my standard of living is in the top one percent. I worry about our house being eaten by termites. I worry about my weight and my health. I worry about politics (who doesn’t?) I worry about my kids, my husband and my aging mother. I worry that I’ll never find an agent for my book—that people are sick to death hearing about me and my dumb novel and how I can’t find an agent who loves it enough to sign me.

I worry that I’m not a good enough writer.

I lived with some form of worry my entire life, most of it pointless. Almost eleven years ago, my worry turned to terror when our daughter, Isa was diagnosed with cancer. Now, that was truly something to worry about. And boy, did I ever get good at it. For almost three years, I carried a tight ball of fear in my gut that never went away, not even for a moment. And when it was all over and Isa was cured, the worry slowly began to dissipate. I was left with this incredible sense of relief. Everything was sweeter and brighter and more joyful. I began to practice feeling grateful.

I stopped worrying and I found my passion.

I began to write.

And I’ve kept at it. Over the past six years, I’ve written 135 blog posts, published two essays (in actual magazines) and even earned $75 for one of them. I’ve managed to send out my annual Holiday newsletter. Every. Single. Frickin. Year. I’ve become friends with many amazing writers (virtually and in person.) And I wrote an entire novel, which most of the time I think is pretty good if I’m feeling generous toward myself.

But in the process of following my literary bliss (and the subsequent rejection I’ve faced with my efforts of trying to get published) I’ve allowed the worry to come back. I began practicing self-doubt instead of self-appreciation. I’d forgotten that what’s important is the path, not the destination (trite, but true.) I’ve been so focused on getting to the end of my journey that I haven’t allowed myself to enjoy all the beautiful things in my periphery along the way.

The worry attached herself again. She’s kept me up at night with her tortuous ways.

Eleven years ago, she held onto me so tightly that I could barely breathe. I learned to beat her back. And I’ll do it again. She’s a tough one, but I’m tougher.

Bring it on, Bitch.

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Encouraging Words

9 Nov

IMG_4512I’m almost done and I’m scared—terrified is more like it. When I first started writing my novel over three years ago, I didn’t believe I’d even complete a few measly chapters, let alone finish the damn thing. I now realize that I should’ve never told anyone in the first place. Now that I’m on the last chapter, people are going to want to read it.

Oh, god—what have I done?

Thanks to self-publishing, there’s a plethora of good writers out there who are getting their work read. On the other hand, there are also a lot of bad writers who publish as well. I follow a few Twitter sites that promote self-published novels and sometimes I’ll click on a link to see what’s out there. Sometimes I cringe at what I read—much of it is downright awful. I find myself hopping up on my literary pedestal and turning into this judgmental critic who actually takes delight in finding poorly written sentences, bad grammar and trite dialogue.

I’m better than that—right?

Deep down I know that I’m a decent writer and editor. What I don’t know yet is if I can tell a story well enough to connect with a reader and to keep them interested in the characters and the plot. I also know that like most writers, that lurking self-doubt leads me down that road of wanting to do anything but finish what I started.

Lucky for me, I’ve surrounded myself with those who believe in me. My family, my friends, my beloved writing group. The other day out of the blue, a member of my writing group sent me a text. He’s been a dear friend since high school and although we lost touch for close to thirty years, we’ve re-connected over the past three and our friendship has blossomed. At our last group meeting, I expressed to my fellow members that I was feeling a bit blue about finishing my novel and how much work I was facing in the coming months to get it ready. This is what he wrote to me:

Hey there. I just wanted to say that I’m so, so proud of you for what you have accomplished in getting your novel written. It’s a huge and massive undertaking and you’re nearly there and ready for rewrites. The percentage of people who never finish that novel (myself included) is so high as to easily discourage first timers. But you have done it, Jessie. I know there may be a little energy sag now or soon, but never stop appreciating and applauding what you have done here. It’s really quite something and I hope you will give yourself more pats on the back than disparaging remarks. There is more work to do, of course, but it’s clearly a labor of love. Please don’t forget that as you move into this next stage, you have done a wonderful and extraordinary thing. Don’t forget to appreciate yourself with as much love and consideration that you offer others. I’m proud you’re my friend and I’ve had the privilege of watching this creation from the front row!

He didn’t have to take the time to text that to me, but because of his generous spirit, he did. And with those encouraging sentences, his words managed to lift me up out of that mire of self-doubt and fear.

At least for today.

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.