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

Spring Spring Spring

Monday, May 23, 2016

You guys, summer is just around the corner. I keep forgetting that all this rain and the warm days are signs of the shift into the next season. I think moving/not moving really messed with me. I keep thinking "there is no such thing as normal", while wondering if it will come around again. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) seems to have been on the brink of change.

Not normal has been pretty fantastic. Explaining it again and again is a constant reminder that what we've been up to since the end of August is strange and unusual and something that I should probably be really grateful for.

Summer is going to be more of the same. Until then, I pulled some pictures off of the computer to share with all of you! 

 march 20

We spent the first part of the spring taking part in my brother and sister's DREAM show. They got cast in Seussical and couldn't have been happier about it. The cast itself was truly amazing. Their first rehearsal sounded as though they had all been singing together for YEARS. It was the first time that most of them had ever been in the same room. Not only did they sing well together, they also became such good friends that all of them wished they could take everyone with them to their next show.  

march 23
Next up was spring break. My brother and sister spent most of it filming and editing a movie. It was so much fun to see them plan it and design costumes and then spend every spare moment heading outside to get the shots they needed. I even got called in to be the special effects master (okay, it consisted of throwing a stick and running out of the shot as quickly as I could, but it was a very important part to play! ;)). 

march 28
We love watching cooking competition shows. Anything Alton brown, Chopped, and Food Network Star are three of our favorites. I'm trying to get us into Guy's Grocery Games too. Anyway....If the food I make is extra pretty my brother and sister will sometimes take pictures of it. They do all the "plating" and staging, and I usually won't even know about the picture until I'm putting the pictures onto the computer from my camera. I THINK this masterpiece was created by my sister. I guess the burritos were a hit! 

april 18
And...For my brother's next show, it was time for a haircut. He hasn't had a REAL haircut since last summer, so it was a long time coming. People were ALWAYS commenting on his mop, but that didn't stop him. It came in handy for his role in Suessical!!!! All that hair meant not having to wear a wig. But...The time to chop it off came and we were all wondering what he would look like...

Pretty sharp, if you ask me!!!! I took a few pictures while we were waiting, so I'll share them too!

I could add pictures of my sister's birthday, the actual show that the haircut starred in (ha!), my sister's graduation, and work around the house....but, I'll stop for now!

What have you been up to?

Do you believe in "normal" these days? 

They Gave You Warnings

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My sister will graduate from highschool on Saturday and she just celebrated her 18th birthday earlier this month. On the day after her birthday, I grabbed my notebook and wrote these words...

My sister turned 18 yesterday. As I laid in bed last night, I thought back over the day. It wasn't long before my thoughts turned to the years and the days that made them up. 18 seems like a HUGE change. In our society, 18 means that you're "grown". People begin treating you differently, the questions about what you want to do with your life turn into questions about what you ARE doing with your life, and all of a sudden, in one day, things change. I'm 8 years older than my sister and have spent quite a bit of time over the last 18 years serving as an extra set of eyes and hands to help raise her. I'm not her mother, but I'm convinced that my thoughts and feelings about her turning 18 are similar to what they would be if I was.

All of a sudden, I realize that we are here. We have reached the point where she is viewed as an adult. She will begin asking for and taking on more and more responsibility for herself and her actions. Just like that, the letting go and stepping back reaches a new high and like every other person who has faced it before me, I'm stunned to know that it's here. Every single day one more child crosses that so-called threshold into adulthood. And each time, a parent, grandparent, and those that have invested themselves in their life, find themselves wondering where the time went. It always comes as a shock, but the truth is, they gave you warnings.

It starts when they reach for the toy or the food. They've been watching you and they are ready to try it out for themselves. Pretty soon, they start to piece together sounds and that's when they pipe up with something like, "My turn." or "I do it." And just like that, the helpless baby has turned into a toddler willing and yearning to do things.

Before you know it, they are running around, attempting to pick out their own outfits and coming up with jokes to keep people laughing. They may be little, but they are giving you warnings that this won't last forever. You step back. You hand over the spoon and the toy. You organize their drawers with the outfits together hoping that they'll take the cue. You laugh at the jokes and every now and then you realize that they are growing up right before your eyes.

A few more years go by and they pick out their own books at the library. They pick a reading spot and it's not your lap anymore. They set up their own forts and plan their own fun. But even then, they're not ready to give up your lap or your games or your help for good. They are giving you warnings, but deep down, you both know that they still need you.

The next summer, they go down the slide without you at the pool. Pretty soon, they're ready to go into the deep end without you treading water nearby just in case. Before the summer is over, they are so busy going from pool to pool that you can't keep up. You wear your suit, but you pack a book and scope out a spot in the shade with the other moms. The warnings continue, and you take note. They don't need you, but you tag along because the things is, this is a ritual that you have come to really enjoy. Yes, it's hot. Yes, they spend half the time warming up on the sidewalk or hanging onto the edge in the deep end. Yes, you'd rather be that young mom pulling her toddler around in the small pool. But, you enjoyed those days while they lasted and now you're enjoying the ones that are here. They'll be over soon too, so you sit and watch and sweat and probably haven't even read more than a page or two because you spent the whole time watching them having their fun at the pool.

All of a sudden, they are teens. They have questions, they want to try EVERYTHING, and they are dealing with A LOT. You begin to discover the things you have in common and your differences become crystal clear. During these years, they are doing their best to find THEIR place in the world. They still need you so much and you both know it. You spend your time listening and walking the tight rope of stepping in to help and stepping back to let them try. They get into binds and you do your best to help them out. Though these years are said to be dreaded, you realize that they are actually a ton a fun. They bring their heartbreaks, their insecurities, their dreams, and their share of joys to you to share them with you. Then, they climb into the driver's seat. They get the job. They take part in the play. They invite friends over and head out for a long hike with a video camera and a trunk full of props. You're welcome, but there isn't room for you anymore. At least, not like there used to be. You stay involved, but now you are transitioning to your role as enthusiastic cheerleader. 

And then it happens. They reach that magic night where they will wake up to be an "adult". The world tells you that your job is done and it hits you. It came so quickly. They gave you warnings and yet none of them prepared you for this moment.

My sister is 18. I heard the warnings. I listened and watched and did the best that I could at being what she needed me to be. Like all the milestones before it, this one is bittersweet. We made it. We'll continue to make it. She'll always be my sister and I'll never feel like my job is "done". With every stage, the warnings will be there and I'll take the cues. And she'll know that these eyes and hands belong to a heart and soul that love her so much more than they can ever express. Things change, but what was true for that helpless baby is still true. I'm here. I'll lead her and follow her and enjoy life alongside of her. She gave us warnings and she grew up and it still managed to catch me by surprise. I may not feel prepared for this moment, but we're both ready. We'll celebrate all that lies ahead just the way we celebrated all that is behind us. We'll make it.