Back to School

A few days ago I heard about a writing course offered by the University of Iowa. The course is called ‘How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women’. In reading the course information I could tell it was way above my level of writing. I made a comment about that and received a response saying that I shouldn’t worry, even undergraduates took the course.


Back to school (image from wiki commons)

Talk about a plummet down the steep slope of lack of confidence. Immediately the inner critic jumped into action. Normally I name the inner critic ‘mom’ but I think I need to rename it ‘Super Antagonist’ as it’s my single biggest source of conflict.

I heard these things. Well, there you go; you’re not even an undergraduate. You’re not good enough. You’ll fail. You’ll be seen publicly as not being able to write. You call yourself a writer but you only took one creative writing college course and hated it. 

In my defense we were told to write about a peanut and then failed if it was humorous rather than existential. An existential peanut. Think about that a moment. My peanut was not existential.

On and on and on. Same old familiar tune.

So what did I do? I got smart. I told my husband.

Why is that smart? Because I have learned over the years that he is a master at talking me into things. This is what he said. That he knew me and once I started the course I’d love it. That I was better than I believed. That he knew my author friend Susan Schreyer would be my support and back up during the course. And so on. The kind of pep talk I needed.

I signed up.

I then emailed Susan to tell her my husband talked me into registering because she’d be my support system. And how did she respond?

By telling me that my husband had now manipulated her into signing up. I thought she’d already registered but it turns out she’d been hesitant, too.

He got us both. Two for one pep talk.

And now my Super Antagonist is whispering ‘you can always quit if you have to’. But hey, I’m registered. And so is Susan. So we’re good. Right?


Those steep, slippery slopes. This is An Caisteal in Britain, from wiki commons

Lack of Self

I’ve been invited to join authors at a local library event.

The result? Immediate self-doubt, the sense of not belonging, of not being good enough, and an immediate need to run to my favorite author/source of support for such events, Susan Schreyer, for hand holding while I wipe my sweaty brow and shake in my shoes.

The thing is, once the event happens, I’m fine. I have no stage fright, I have no problem speaking to crowds, I love doing this kind of stuff, and I have a blast.

It’s just the weeks leading up to it that’s horrible.

Here’s a prime example. We’ve been asked to provide questions we’d like to be asked, random facts about ourselves, and questions for the other authors. For random facts about ourselves, I submitted the earth shattering news that I once tried sandpaper to get rid of freckles after uncles told me freckles came from walking too close behind cows. I sent in my responses, then read what others submitted and wallow in self recrimination because theirs seem so well thought out, so ‘real author’ like.

And when I look at their author photos, they all look so professional. Then there’s me with those freckles that didn’t give way to sandpaper.

I absolutely detest those days leading up to an event. I even find it hard to write because I feel like a fraud. I don’t belong. I’m not a real author. All those horrible negatives that creep in. And let me tell you, it’s not just a looming event that make me fall victim to that nasty inner critic. It doesn’t take much at all, especially when I sit down to write, to bring up that weight of ‘I’m not good enough’. I know the thoughts are stupid, I know I’m not as bad as I think I am, but I can never escape that little voice saying ‘maybe you are’.

All this means that for the next couple weeks I’m going to be full of doubt, resisting the urge to moan my fate to Susan, struggling to string words together, and generally miserable. Then I’ll go to the library and have a blast and come home castigating myself for once again being a fool. I’ll feel empowered, enthusiastic, and impatient to write. Until another invitation comes in.

So what makes the difference? What makes me recognize the beauty of writing, the excitement of telling a story? What makes me react so differently?

Being around writers and readers. Having an environment of those who thrill to the power of a new book, a new tale to read, a new challenge to write. Even doing an edit job for someone else gives me that sense of enthusiasm to jump back into writing. I don’t think of it as a support system because, to me, a support system means a close group of regulars. I have that, in Susan and close friends (you know who you are) who are always there. What I’m talking about here is something different. I can go to those friends and know they are going to shore me up. But being around writers and readers isn’t a shoring up, it’s a sharing of something mutual. Those people don’t know me, the enthusiasm doesn’t come from loving me, it comes from loving the same thing. Does that make sense?

Between now and The Event I’m going to struggle to write every single word in my work in progress. But I know in a couple of weeks, that same work in progress is going to be inundated.

How silly we are sometimes.

November 2nd, 2:00 - 3:00, Snohomish WA library. Come share the enthusiasm.

November 2nd, 2:00 – 3:00, Snohomish WA library. Come share the enthusiasm.