When I want to fight self-doubt, I draw inspiration from my creative origins.
Around the age of twelve, I remember I started to receive letters from my godmother Sharon. My heart squeezes as I think about opening up her cards and finding money gifts after each birthday or holiday that I’d celebrated. Sharon never failed to remember me over the years.
Wow, I thought. As I read these cards and Sharon’s notes inside them, I pictured her short, wavy brown hair; dark glasses; and warm, light laugh, and it stirred up memories of summers swimming in her pool and playing with her golden retriever.
It wasn’t the commercial cards carefully selected to commemorate the event that affected me, though. It was Sharon’s words, handwritten in elegant, cursive script, with curvy, flowing loops that affected me in a way that a Hallmark one could not. That’s when my mother looked at me and said, “You need to write here a thank-you note.”
“Oh…okay,” I responded with my eyebrows raised. “What should I say to her?” I asked.
As she explained to me that I should thank her for the money, and tell her what I’d planned to spend it on, I sat down to write the thank-you note. As I started to write the sentences, I felt an invisible tug, like a climber using a rope, and pulley system, and this force guided me throughout the letter.
I had the desire to write more, not just the standard “Thank-you for (insert gift here). I will use it for…” I wasn’t satisfied with the standard responses. I discovered that I wanted to fill the letters with stories and details of my life, telling her how I felt at whatever birthday or holiday it’d been. I also wanted to explain to her what I hoped for the future and express how much it’d meant to me that she’d thought of me.
I sort of turned these thank-you notes into mini stories.
After each letter that she’d received, Sharon would call my mother to tell her how much she enjoyed those letters.
Wow, I thought. She’s a high school English teacher, and she says she liked my writing.
As time passed, her feedback began to inspire me, and give me the confidence to add more detail to these letters. I started to take the time to choose words that would be the most effective.
“I wish my students would take the time to learn how to write like this,” she’d say.
My heart soared. In those days, not much in the way of education boosted my confidence or ignited the flame to propel me forward to improve anything I’d created. As a student pulled out of the classroom frequently to test for the extent of my learning disabilities, I viewed education as nothing but a struggle for something I had to do, nothing that I wanted to do.
Writing letters changed that for me.
So today, if you’re struggling to find that burst of inspiration, if you’re staring at a blank screen because the claws of self-doubt have you ensnared; look back on your writing origins. There you will find proof of your natural abilities, evidence that will give you the strength to silence your inner critic, and you’ll realize you’re right where you should be: writing.