12/3/13

Self Doubt with a side of Insecurity, please!

Pretty much everyone who blogs is writing a book. Everyone I know, at least. Some are writing fiction, some are writing collections of essays, a couple are writing children's books.

Most of us, however, are writing memoirs. We are writing about ourselves, our lives, our children and our spouses.

Because that's what we write about on our blogs. OUR LIVES.

Our lives are all so different. And somehow, in some ways, they are so alike. We are moms, and dads, and women and men. We have cats. Dogs. Jobs. Homes.

Kids.

Some of us are rich, some are not. Some of us wrestle with demons, some of us cuddle with serendipity.

We all have stories.

Ever since I started writing here, I've heard it. At first, it was from friends...which made perfect sense because those were the only people who read my stories. And when friends tell you, "Hey, you should write a book!" you take it kind of like they've told you "No, those pants don't make you look fat! You look beautiful!"

Your friends love you. Everything you do, say, wear...or write, is tinted by their love and affection for you. Kind of like moms and their kids, you know? How many of you have looked at a scribbly crayon-drenched note and felt your insides melt at its beauty?

It's a whole 'nother thing when strangers enter the picture and start telling you, "Hey, you should write a book!"

That's when you start to think: Hmm. Maybe this is something I can do. Maybe there really is a book inside of me!

And so you start thinking. Writing. Plotting.

In my case, what I've heard over and over is, "I started reading your blog and couldn't stop." "I started at the beginning and when I got to the end I wanted more!" "I was so sad when I got to the end!".

People, mostly women, send me emails telling me their stories. Stories about husbands gone wild, about sad kids, about the comical first post-divorce dates. And their stories about financial struggles, about hopelessness and trying to find the strength to get through the crappiest of times. I read every single one of them, and each one holds me firmly in its grip long after the words have flitted by my eyes.

We all have stories.

I thought it would be easy. I thought it was just a matter of gathering up the posts I've written which have garnered the most response. The posts that have made people laugh, cry, get mad. I thought it would be just that easy.

One of you, one of my dear readers, stepped forward and wanted to help. "Let me edit for you" she proffered. Edit? Be still my wanna-be writer's heart. Someone out there thought I was editor worthy! This splendid woman took my "manuscript", my collections of essays and posts which had been separated into their own little collections ("Before the Divorce" "The Kids" "Dating", etc.) and polished it up. She took on the massive job of correcting my woeful grammar, my apostrophe abuse, my chronic overuse of ellipsis.

I began to look forward to her emails, wondering if she liked what she'd read, if she thought I'd done good. We writers are a weird lot, you know. Kind of like puppies who just want reassurance that yes, yes, yes, you're a good girl! You're such a good girl!

And she did tell me I'm a good girl. I mean, writer. She brought up issues with tense, wondered whether or not some of what I had deemed as integral to my story was really that integral. She questioned me and praised me and then one miraculous day, she sent me the revised, complete manuscript. I looked at the little paperclip icon thingie, and the words "complete manuscript" in the subject line.

It was terrifying. I put off reading it, for several days. It was Thanksgiving, after all, and besides having to cook 50 pounds of potatoes (I was in charge of starches this year), we also had a hockey tournament. I took a few vacation days in order to set aside some WRITERY TIME.

Today was my WRITERY TIME. I sat down this morning, and cracked it open. I read it.

And guess what? I don't like it. I hated not liking it. It felt as though I had posed for a picture, thought I was looking good, thought "This picture will be so awesome!" and then seeing the finished product and immediately noticing every single flaw. Every wrinkle, every blemish, every hair out of place.

I read it and I thought to myself, Nobody will want to read this. I'm actually embarrassed that I thought this was good enough to be a book. And, WTF was I thinking? 

I thought to myself: I hate this.

I wrote to my dear, sweet editor. "I hate it!" I told her.

And then, because I'm me, I hastily wrote back:

"I don't hate your editing! That was awesome! I can't write. My writing sucks. I gave you a pile of goo and asked you to try and shape it into something readable..which you did, but MY WRITING SUCKS."

Because this chick, this reader, this lovely and kind woman, she's good at what she does. Not only is she good at it, she loves doing it. And it shows.

So I spent the better part of my Writery Day feeling insecure. Feeling foolish and stupid and so naively optimistic. I watched a couple episodes of my latest Netflix obsession (for the love of God, a Canadian cop show called Flashpoint...copy that, boss) and shared my woes with some of my writery friends.

I mentally broke up with my book, the tome I had so lovingly labored over and had named "What To Do When Your Husband Leaves You". I decided that maybe I didn't have a book in me after all, and that maybe all I'm cut out to be is an unknown blogger who sometimes writes things that people read.

And I was okay with that. For a minute. Then, I had a talk with my son.

My sweet, smart, wise-beyond-his-years son, Charlie. The kid who has gone through so much, who is en route to adulthood at a dizzying pace. Charlie and I bounce things off of each other. We talk about our hopes and our dreams and give each other encouragement. We also give each other shit when applicable.

"Charlie" I started. "Oh man. I'm feeling really icky today, son."

He sat down next to me, all muscles and height and that little boy face.

"What's wrong, mom?" he asked me, genuinely concerned.

I sighed. Picked at the last egg roll on the plate we'd shared.

"I don't think I can write a book, Charlie. I think it's not meant to be." I blurted this out, finally admitting it, finally saying out loud what I'd been thinking all day long.

Charlie scoffed. He stood up, folded his arms and scoffed again. And then he said:

"If you give up on this, I will never forgive you." And then, for good measure, he added:

"Seriously. Like, I will literally never forgive you. And you'll never forgive yourself."

Well, shoot. How can this kid be so smart?

He's right, of course.

If I give up on this, I will never forgive myself.

So I put on my big girl panties. I looked at the manuscript again, only this time, I looked at it with less critical eyes. I looked at it the way we moms look at those crayoned love notes from our babes. I looked past the obvious flaws, the garishness, the crudeness. I looked through all that, and you know what I saw?

I saw my book.

It's in there. And it's beautiful.






21 comments:

  1. To be honest, your posts have the elements of a good book: plot, characters, dialogue. Many bloggers fail to look up from their own navel-gazing to pay attention to their audience. Unlike then, you give your audience their due, and that right there is enough to get me thinking you've got a fair shake at assembling a whole book out of this.

    The question is what purpose the book serves. After you've done all *this*, why do this other thing? As far as I can tell, the answer to that question contains the structure of your book; it'll write itself from there.

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    1. Brian, this was so nice to read first thing in the morning. Thank you. You've given me some good thinkin' material today. I'm going to be all Steve Martin in the Jerk now, trying to find my "special purpose" (sorry for the old-timey movie reference).

      I think my purpose is to let people know they're not alone in this crazy journey. Whether it's divorce, dating, raising kids with a little damage, being broke...it always makes me so happy when someone takes a minute to say "Thank you, I feel better now".

      So thanks Brian. And I'm glad to find your blog. I think you were the first person to comment on a Scary Mommy post of mine :)

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    2. "The Jerk" is so full of wisdom! "... and this Thermos..." is an oft-cited line in our house. You know. Remembering how awesome the little things are.

      "Not alone" is a great purpose. It's precisely what I needed to hear and read when I started doing this stay-at-home-dad(parent) thing. I think you've got the voice for it. Do it!

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  2. We are so much harder on ourselves than on anything or anyone else. Your book may not make the Times Best Seller List (although it really might), but I'd bet money someone will read it and be so grateful for having done so. Since I work in community mental health (I'm a social worker), I hear/see stories every day and I think, "I should write a book" but I never do.

    Maybe someday.

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    1. Get writin', Donna :) I bet you have some doozies.

      Thank you for your (as always) kind and supportive words. I treasure them.

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  3. Wow. Good for you! I hope when I finish mine some day I will remember this post and remember to give mine a second look. Can't wait to hear more about your journey.

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    1. Thank you Deanna! I'm glad you're writing too. I hope you finish :)

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  4. Keep going! Your book is there, waiting to be shaped into the book it's meant to be. I think the "hating" is a good sign, a sign that you're SO close but you inner critic is trying to make you scared. I'm so glad you stepped away from it long enough to see it's true beauty.

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    1. Thank you, Christian. This made me kind of weepy. That inner critic can be such a bitch.

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  5. I'm so proud of you for doing this; for being scared and doing it anyway. I've all but stopped writing; I just can't seem to do it anymore, and I live vicariously through you, my friend, and your struggles to achieve the dream that used to be mine. Just remember --completing the book is an accomplishment in and of itself, and not a small one, either. You ARE a writer, my dear, regardless of if you sell 20 books or 20 million (though my money's on the latter). You are amazing!

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  6. Insecurity and doubt are huge bitches. But your son and your editor friend? Listen to them, tell doubt and insecurity to take a hike, and keep it up!

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  7. Can I be a beta for you? I will be totally honest, I swear. I'm not a grammar expert or anything, but I will tell you what I honestly think.

    And BTW, shouldn't your goal be to love the whole book as much as you love your favorite blog-post? (Or do you now, since you've read it again?)

    There's nothing wrong with cuddling up with your manuscript and a bright red pen and jotting down some stuff in the margins... you never know what new magic might come out of you. You might end up writing NOTHING in the margins...and that would be equally magical.

    This post was so inspiring... I haven't worked on my novel in months. I keep telling myself it's a story no one will want to read. I need to get my shit together and dig it up out of the bowels of my laptop.

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  8. KEEP GOING. It will be good. You have stumbled onto the great truth: Books (and blog posts) are like babies. You gotta love 'em just the way they come out.

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  9. I feel ya, Jenny -- if I had a dollar for everytime the bitter taste of self-doubt entered my mouth we'd BOTH be rich! I go through this EVERY time I create curriculum for a new class (so, like, 3 times a year) and been going through it with my book, too. And my job is easier than yours because my students have written part of it! But guess what -- you inspired me to work on it this afternoon, and reminded me that we have to tell our inner critics to just STFU. For sure, listen to Charlie and your editing friend, and follow Winston Churchill's advice for good measure: "Never, never, never give up." I'm cheering for ya!

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  10. You need to write the book. I'm relatively new to your audience and began reading your blog several weeks ago. Eventually I read nearly every entry. Though I haven't been through divorce, this really struck me and stayed with me for weeks. Also, have you ever considered submitting to Mommyish? It seems your work would fit well there. They're cool and so are you.

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  11. It is in there. It is in you. Yes, we all have stories. But some of us are better equipped to tell them. You tell yours with insight and humor and a true gift for STORYTELLING. Just because we all have stories to tell does not make each of us a storyteller.

    I'm not writing a book by the way. So there. You know one person. ;)

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    1. Thank you Nina...high praise coming from you.

      And don't you mean you're not writing a book RIGHT NOW? I see big things in your future.

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  12. I don't mean to be insensitive but the only thing sticking with me is "(for the love of God, a Canadian cop show called Flashpoint...copy that, boss)What's wrong with that show? Because it's Canadian or a cop show? I love that show!!

    And really your blog is awesome, your book will be too. Lots of people never like the end result of something that they secretly want so badly and when it happens, oh its not good. It will be good and I am so glad that you see that now. Andrea

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    1. Ha!! Nothing is wrong with it! I've watched every single episode and yes I love it too. Just meant "God help me" as in "I have been hopelessly sucked into yet another show". And I just pronounced "been" as "bean" because I've been talking like a Canadian since I started watching it :)

      Thanks for your support and encouragement! I really appreciate it.

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    2. Is it sad that Flashpoint is the part that stuck with me too? I think it's because most Americans don't know about this wonderfully addicting show. I now find myself telling our kids to do something and "do it now!" Ah...something about that Ed Lane!

      I am a new reader to your blog and have kept a tab open on my phone with your site so I don't forget to read more of it. So you should be deemed as Sierra and this book is your "solution," copy?

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    3. COPY THAT, BOSS. Swooooon Ed Lane! I stalked him a little bit and found out he sings in a band. Hotness quotient just went up. A lot!

      Thanks for your kind words, and for the Canadian cop show laugh :)

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