Overcoming Writer's Doubt
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Earlier this year, I heard about a writing contest that my library was hosting and decided to enter. The writing was easy. It probably took me about an hour or so to write a piece that fit the parameters. It was a piece from my heart and it pretty much accomplished exactly what I hoped that it would.
Writing that way comes very naturally to me. I let the piece sit in my purple notebook for a few days before going back to it to see if it was actually as good as I thought it was when I initially wrote it out. At that point, I still liked it and decided to start the process of polishing it up so that it was worth entering. I did this several more times and eventually typed it out on the computer. I still had months before the deadline and I wasn’t in a hurry.
Eventually, I had worked on it enough and felt like it was ready to be handed over to the first sets of eyes for a critique. I let my Mom and my sister read it to see what they thought. About the time that I handed it over was when the doubt started to set in. I began asking myself the questions that I’m sure every writer asks. It was a pretty personal piece, so I was worried about it making sense. I was worried about the way that I chose to set up and arrange the paragraphs. I was worried that it was too introspective and that people wouldn’t even be able to make it to the end without completely losing interest. The feeling of dread that I face whenever I hand over a piece like that is actually in my stomach now just thinking about the whole situation.
I got over the doubt. I handed it to them and I asked them for their opinions. They liked it. In fact, they both loved it. My Mom who doesn’t cry about anything said that it made her cry. That’s when I knew that maybe I was onto something after all. I took their suggestions and worked out some more of the kinks. A few more days went by and I knew that I needed to prepare my entry packet and turn it in at the library before I changed my mind. Already, the doubt was back. I knew it was good. My Mom and my sister both told me it was good. I began to worry that it was good enough for us, but that it wouldn’t be good enough for the professional judges who would be making the calls for the contest. I went back and forth with myself over whether or not it was something that I could sign my name to.
Well, I did it. I printed it off. I prepared the packet. And I dropped it off at the library. In a cold sweat. Handing over a piece of writing that I had spent so much time on for complete strangers to read, critique, judge, and hopefully enjoy was so far out of my comfort zone as a writer. I have been blogging for years and sharing posts that come close to home, but this was different. The purpose of a contest is to see how you measure up. The judges don’t know anything about each writer and all they have to go off of are the words on the page in front of them.
The deadline came. The hardest part was behind me, but I was growing very eager to find out how things went. A few weeks later, I received a voicemail saying that I was one of the winners! I was so excited that I sat in my living room squealing and crying and being overcome by a sense of joy that I can’t even explain. It was one of the most amazing moments in my life. People liked what I had to say.
Writer’s doubt tempted me to take my words and keeps them hidden away in my purple notebook. The thing about writing is that it’s meant to be shared and enjoyed and read and savored and then passed on. Handing a piece of writing over may be difficult, but there’s nothing quite like watching readers appreciate your work. I know that now and it’s a lesson I won’t soon be forgetting.
This post just so happens to be an entry for another writing contest. This contest is called "Writers Crushing Doubt" and is being hosted by Bryan at Positive Writer.