The Search for Inspiration and Facing the Demon of Self-Doubt

This post is my entry for the writing contest: You Deserve to be Inspired hosted by Positive Writer.

My journey with my inner critic began with the ringing of a bell. I remember how the piercing sound caused my heart to plunge.

It was time to line up outside the entrance of my school to begin the day.

The concrete scuffed below my dragging feet as I stepped in the fifth grade line – again.

“Fifth grader, fifth grader,” said a female voice.

I stared at the brick building in front of me, not daring to meet the other student’s gaze.

It’d been my first day back to school after summer vacation. Over the break I’d learned that I’d been diagnosed with a learning disability, and my teachers thought it would be best if I repeated the fifth grade.

Fifth grader, fifth grader. Ever since that day, I’ve heard that voice. A voice that shined a light on me, and I didn’t like that glare. So, I stepped into the darkness. There in that silence I heard:

You’re not good enough.

Don’t bother to dream.

You’ll always be that person trying to play catch up with everyone else, and avoiding eye contact with the world.

Those voices swirled together in my mind to form my demon of self-doubt. The darkness served as my armor.

In that silence, my imagination also ignited. There I used my creativity which allowed me to adjust to the darkness outside the light.

But something had been missing from my defense.

And I craved to fill that void.

Inspiration had been whispering my name as she danced around the edges of my mind. But, desperation tied knots around my creativity. I couldn’t reach out to catch that voice, which dissipated like fog in the rising sun.

For years I studied other authors, reading their blog posts online and watching them publish their work.

Then I signed up for a workshop where the members would self-publish their eBook in ten days.

Ten days? asked the demon. You’ll never finish.

Ugh. Afterwards, it occurred to me that those ten days coincided with a family vacation on Cape Cod. What were you thinking? I freaked out, than procrastinated.

I remember listening to the crashing of the waves as I sat on the beach. The wind whipped sand across my journal as I brainstormed to discover the subject of my eBook.

At home I often listened to the sound of the waves on a CD during my writing sessions.

The reality wasn’t as relaxing.

This environment was supposed to spark ideas. Where were they?

I huffed, aggravated that I’d placed the added pressure on myself by waiting until the last moment to write my eBook.

I stayed up all night long, focusing on hitting the deadline I’d given the editor. (Umm, when I’d been in college pulling an “all-nighter” had been easy. Now that I had been nearing 40 that October? Yeah. Not so easy).

My eyes had been dry, like I’d baked and shoved sand in them.

I’d decided to write about descriptions. I e-mailed the draft to the editor.

That sucks, said the demon. The writing, not the sand.

I’d met the deadline. I should’ve been happy.

But branches snagged me in the darkness, scraped away at my layers of self-confidence.

I received the edits and discovered I’d introduced concepts too fast. Plus, I had no conclusion. Ugh. The red font from the Track Changes in Word glared at me – and I glared right back. Instead of trying to revise it, I shelved the manuscript. I’m never going to fulfill my writing dreams.

I watched the other members publish their eBooks. My enthusiasm had become a kite, blowing away in the wind.

Four months later…

I really have to publish a book if I’m going to be an author, I thought as I glanced over my freewriting for the past few weeks.

This time though, I didn’t procrastinate.

Everything that I’d written had been about my battle with self-doubt. That’s it.

So, I continued, feeling that this time, I’d fortified my defense against my inner demon. I’d been open about my insecurities and my learning difficulties.

This was going to work out.

It seemed something had begun to fill that void.

On March 23, 2017, I uploaded my first eBook, Vanquish the Demon of Self-Doubt: Give your Writing Wings to Amazon.

What did I learn from this experience?

  1. I learned that when you step into the darkness, you’re cutting off your own light flowing into the world. And you’re never going to fulfill your dreams that way.
  2. I learned that if you’re honest and brave, writing can help heal your inner battles.
  3. I learned that you find your inspiration when you discover your confidence. And your inner light becomes stronger than the demon of self-doubt, allowing your writing to shine bright for the world.

When I look at my eBook sitting on Amazon’s digital shelf, fulfillment shimmers through me. I don’t hear those voices telling me that my work is crap, that my words don’t matter.

No.

I hear:

Wow, look at that story. I hope it helps other writers improve their mindset because they’ll know they’re not alone in their struggles.

Wow, I hope my words inspire other writers to share their work with the world.

When you defeat those negative voices, you’re clearing the way for the light of your words. And that’s what had been missing when I retreated into the darkness. I may have avoided the glare, but I doused my own light of self-confidence.

Without that light, my writing voice fell into the abyss of shadows.

And it’s too cold down there for you – and your writing – to thrive.

Through inspiration, creativity and hard work, it is my goal to keep my light of self-confidence burning bright.

What have you learned in the battle with your demon? Share in the comments.

Stuck in Self-Sabotage Mode? Recover with One Step

The following is a rundown of my writing routine one day last week. Maybe you can relate.

I clicked through Facebook.

I clicked on some viral videos.

I watched a movie trailer.

The day before, I’d just finished a draft of an eBook that I sent to my editor.

This eBook was different from my other works-in-progress that I’d written.

I planned on publishing this one.

And I liked it.

AND THAT’S NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE.

When I complete the final draft, I’m going to upload and publish the eBook on Amazon in order to make it available for sale to readers.

Whoa.

I’m actually going to get paid for my hard work.

I should’ve been happy on this day.

I was finally going to take that step toward my dream.

I’ve traveled a long journey from that first initial spark of that dream at twelve years old to today.

My heartbeat though thumped with annoyance.

What was my problem?

I don’t like completing a project.

Why?

Because I have to start another one, and then that fear, that self-doubt returns again.

That day I knew my inner critic would return, so instead of writing, I procrastinated, than blamed it on writer’s block.

And I found myself in the same situation.

I’d been stuck.

In self-sabotage mode.

Like a glitch in a video game, I continued to perform the same actions over-and-over as fear zapped away my courage and drained away my self-confidence. I’d been a battery without the power to fuel me.

And in order to fill a blank page and overcome procrastination, I needed that creative energy.

This always happens to me, I thought as I watched another video, guilt darkening my mood. My poor writing and work habits flashed before my eyes like the scenes in that video.   

This is ridiculous. I need to find a way to thwart this fear. I need to find a way to recover when I’m stuck in self-sabotage mode.

Then like an avalanche, the answer slammed into me.

BAM! I’d talked about it in my eBook. Why wasn’t I listening to my own advice?

I knew how to recover from self-sabotage. I knew I needed something else to ignite the flames of inspiration. I knew I needed to remove those feelings of fear. I knew I needed to replace a negative emotion with a positive one.

And I knew what helped me when I had a difficult time starting this eBook.

An image.

An image helped me recover from self-sabotage. One step. That’s all.

Ugh. I remember dragging my hands down my face. That moment when I minimized Scrivener in order to open up another window, so I could type in the address for Pixabay, a website with free stock photos for use.

I’d known that I wanted to try and compare my self-doubt to a neglected home. The dust, dirt and shadows reminded me of a cell.

And my mind had been that prison.

Often when I experienced self-doubt, it’d seemed as if I’d become trapped in my own debilitating mind.

So I scanned photographs of crumbling sheds and cabins.

No. No. No. Nothing had piqued my interest.

Then…Wow, I thought, recalling the way I blinked when I spotted the photograph nestled beside hundreds of other stock images.

This photograph spoke to me, targeted that innate creative fire burning for release.

This is it. I leaned forward. Before I even clicked on the image adrenaline began pumping through me, spiking my creativity.

The photograph featured a darkened room with faded brown walls and scarred floorboards. A brick fireplace and a chair stood in the middle of the room. Shadows circled the area.

I clicked again.

And I had a chance to see the darkened image up close, the details that made me freeze.

Ooh, that’s creepy. I shivered as the image filled my computer screen. And despite that initial response, the photograph didn’t erase the sensory feelings that followed:

In that photo, I could hear the floorboards creak beneath my feet, feel the dirt coating my skin, smell the scent of dust filling the air, tickling my throat. I could see the dark shadows flickering off the walls of my own mind.

Because that was what this photograph did for me.

It reminded me of what it’d been like to be filled with debilitating self-doubt. It reminded me of what it’d been like to be cornered by my own mind.

It reminded me of what it’d been like to be stuck in self-sabotage.

One dark shadow, the figure of a human standing out beyond the rest.

This is the shadow of my inner demon.

And I’ve let him run my dreams for way too long.

It was time to conquer this demon. Again.

And that journey starts with overcoming self-sabotage and learning how to be a productive writer – and in a few days – an author.

That image helped me write the introduction and helped me to complete the draft of my eBook that I sent to my editor.

All it took was an image and the inner call of my other voice present in my mind.

My muse.

My muse is the light that removes these shadows from my mind.

My muse is also the voice of my self-confidence.

Sometimes when we’re stuck trying to complete a writing project, we think we only hear that negative voice, that voice of the critic.

But we don’t.

Listen carefully.

Your muse, your self-confidence is present. You just need to find that light of inspiration that pushes those demons away like rain washes away dirt after a storm. Flood your mind with the light of your muse and you’ll recover from self-sabotage.

An image helped me re-enter the game of writing. Find an image that does the same for you.

What images have released you from self-sabotage mode and prompted you to finish a writing project? I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

It’s Not About Self-Doubt, It’s About This

Self-doubt can creep into your mind and debilitate you at any time, but I find it often slithers in uninvited right after I’ve completed a writing project – during a time when my mindset is riding a wave of positivity – because finishing a task can be difficult for me.

Recently I just completed a few blog posts, and I began working on the About page for this website. After some research, I discovered something I didn’t know: The About page of a website is not about you.

What?

I continued to read and I found out that the About page should focus on what you can offer your audience. It’s about what type of specific message you can bring to your community.

Okay, that makes sense, but I sat back and raised my eyebrows as I looked at the first draft of my About page. You mean I can’t talk about how I’m a television and movie fanatic? You mean I can’t tell my readers that my favorite television show is Supernatural? You mean I can’t tell my community that my favorite exercises are swimming and martial arts? You mean that I can’t reveal that one of the items on my bucket list includes sneaking into Area 51 in order to read classified documents so I can tell the world through my writing whether or not there really is an alien conspiracy?

Umm, just kidding on the last one. Well…sort of.

I always knew that I wanted to focus on self-doubt; I’d already written a few blog posts which confirmed that. Still. What information should I be writing on that damn About page?

Can I just delete it?

No.

I looked that up too.

The About page is considered one of the most important tools for a blogger and author.

The About page.

You mean it’s really not about me? Ugh. I winced at that thought.

Right on cue, when I’m starting to feel my positivity deflate, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

You can’t do this, whispered my inner critic. You suck.

I ignored the pang of self-doubt though and I researched some more. I read through many author About pages, and realized that my message should tie in with everything on my website, including the About page.

I re-wrote what I had and sent it off to writing coach Jennifer Blanchard for editing.

Over the summer I’d opened up a website, but it’s remained empty until this fall when I began receiving email coaching from Jennifer. The coaching has been a major help in accountability. I believe that my website would still be blank if it weren’t for Jennifer’s assistance. She’s helped me with everything from navigating confusing technical issues in WordPress to offering suggestions on my author message and marketing efforts.

A day later I received her edits. I scanned the document. It didn’t contain too many errors. Good. My positive mindset soared. Then I reached the bottom of the document where she’d asked me to expand on a paragraph and share what it was like to overcome self-doubt.

For some reason my inner critic roared with laughter.

What are you going to say now?

But, to manage this voice, I fought back the only way I know how: I reached for my pen and journal and began to free write.

I started again at the beginning. If the page is not supposed to focus on me, then what am I about?

It’s about what I have to offer.

I began to write a list of everything I’ve learned in the workshops I’ve participated in and through my blogging and email coaching with Jennifer.

The list continued for several pages. I jotted down everything from learning about WordPress, to forming a subscribers list, using MailChimp and Canva, to the ways to make an eBook cover, to marketing my work.

And something happened.

My self-doubt was silent.

I silenced the debilitating jerk.

Why?

Because when you focus on what you’ve learned, and how that knowledge can help others, you’re not focusing on you.

When you’re not focusing on yourself, you’re not concentrating on what you can’t do. You’re concentrating on what you can do.

Everyone – every writer – has something to offer in this world.

Jennifer believes that you shouldn’t try to please everyone and I agree with that. You can be an author for a specific person, though, and that can be accomplished by focusing on your progress.

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction or both, our job is to educate, entertain and inspire our readers. When we’re focused on that we’re not concentrating on the piece of plot structure that’s giving us a hard time, we’re not frustrated when we can’t think of what to write for our next blog post. No.

When we take the focus off ourselves, self-doubt has nothing to say because he can’t argue with progress.

What’s it feel like overcoming self-doubt? What’s it like on the other side?

Without that weight pinning me down, I completed my damn About page that was giving me a hard time and I finished this blog post.

How does that feel?

It feels awesome!

It was never about me. It was about you. And it’s about progress.

What have you learned since beginning your writing journey? Share in the comments!

 

Writing Origins: Part 1

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.

 

What To Do When Your Life Explodes

The contractors replacing our roof

“I received a call from the bank today,” my husband, Wayne, said a few weeks ago as he stood in front of our supply closet. The top of his head shined from the light above our kitchen island, and the gray wisps that lightly dusted the edges of his beard glimmered as he turned to me. “They didn’t approve our loan.”

I reeled, dropping the spoon into the rice I’d been stirring on the stove. “What?” The wooden spoon clattered against the pot as my voice quaked and my heart stammered. “They just approved us last week. How can they change their minds?”

Wayne sighed. “They decided that they wanted to assess the value of the house and when they compared it with the amount of equity that we own . . .”

Oh shit. My chest tightened, and I blocked out the rest of Wayne’s confusing explanation from my mind. His words: The bank didn’t approve our loan thrusting into me like a lance. I pushed the completed rice off the burner. Eating dinner no longer seemed appetizing to me. “How can they do that?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’m pissed.” He closed the door. He’d just finished cleaning another round of vomit downstairs. It seems as if our 17 year-old cat, Tabitha, is nearing the end of her life, and we’ve been cleaning up after her daily. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for when that day will arrive.

“I complained to them though,” Wayne said, his voice shoving me back into the ring of reality, where that lance still jabbed me with our loan problems. “If they’d said that the approval was pending, I wouldn’t have spent the money we received on the sale of the CRV on some bills.” He stalked over to the sink to wash his hands. “I would’ve saved that money.”

I took a deep breath as I grabbed a wipe and walked across our squeaking floor. At the peninsula in our kitchen, I leaned over the white laminate counter, and wiped the crumbs left over from my son, Colton’s dinner.

Just focus on cleaning, not money. We’ll figure it out. We always do. Above me, a large jagged slash fused with cracked and peeling paint scarred our popcorn ceiling. Two years ago I’d walked into our kitchen late one night, the drip, drip, drip of water causing me to pause as I discovered a small puddle that had formed on my laptop. I’d been so lucky. I’d caught the leak before the water had a chance to completely damage my computer and all my writing.

We had a similar mark on our living room ceiling. A dark, brown stain marred the space above our front door. The spot “looked like the shape of a king who sat in his throne,” according to Colton.

In the bathroom another gash ran across the middle of the ceiling.

The same water damage marked several other parts of the ceiling in our house, the remnants a constant reminder that our room needed to be replaced.

Last year luck had been granted to us again. It had been a mild winter with few snowstorms. Only one new leak had formed on the ceiling.

Luck eventually runs out though.

I’d heard from several people who listen to the weather gurus who insisted that “they’re predicting a bad winter this season.”

Could we risk doing nothing and hope that the roof doesn’t suffer a catastrophic failure?

I closed my eyes as the dream I’d had last year surged into my mind. I shivered. I remember the feel of the bitter, cold water gushing down from our ceiling, drenching Wayne, Colton and I as we stood in our house. Then, I recalled hearing a rushing sound ring in my ears as the pieces of the roof collapsed around us, destroying all of our belongings.

I didn’t think we could risk it.

We needed that loan.

“What are we going to do?” I asked Wayne.

“I don’t know, but we can’t even afford a tarp to put up there to cover it.” He stopped in the middle of the kitchen and turned to me. “I’m also afraid we’re going to go bankrupt,” he said, shaking his head. “Every pay period we’re like $500 short. You really should get a job. Even $200 extra a week can help us.”

I stopped cleaning.

I’d been flooded with questions from family members and friends since Colton started kindergarten.

So what are you going to do now?

When are you going to get a job?

I have a job, I wanted to say. Their reactions made me feel as if I hadn’t been working for the past six years, raising my son. I had a job, I just didn’t get paid. But each time I’d smiled, telling them, I’m working on my writing career. Each time my heart thumped with fear at the announcement. And each time I’d received frowns and responses like, Oh you’re going to do that. But each time those reactions rolled through my mind and propelled me forward.

Those reactions reminded me daily to work harder on my writing.

When I put a pen to paper or my fingers to a keyboard, I tell myself: I can do this. And even though it’s hard, even though I fail sometimes, no one can take away that feeling from me. That feeling of knowing that day will eventually come where my dreams and my reality will synchronize and I will create strings of words that sing a resonating tune that people will want to hear.

Someday, somehow, I know that I will connect with people and build my community.

It will happen and I can’t wait to prove those naysayers wrong.

That moment in the kitchen was the first time, in the six years since I became a stay-at-home mom that Wayne had directly asked me to apply to a job working for someone else. He knew I wanted to pursue my writing dreams, and he’d always supported that goal.

It was at that moment that I knew we were in trouble with our finances. Now it seemed that my writing dream was more distant than ever. It will be difficult working for someone else again, I thought. With that thought though, guilt twisted my stomach.

It wasn’t like I didn’t want to support my family. I don’t enjoy watching the stress and the consequences of dwindling finances unfold onto our family, I just wanted to find a way to work on my terms. For once. I wanted to write. I wanted to make a difference performing a job I was meant to do.

I realized then though that in order to make it work right now, I’d have to apply for a part time job.

In the following days a rapid succession of events followed.

“We can’t get the roof fixed and we can’t afford a tarp to put up there either,” I said to my mother over the phone. The admission painfully twisted that lance further into me, and this time it pierced my heart.

Nine-thousand dollars was a lot of money to ask for, even if it was my parents.

“Let me speak to your father,” she said.

Then, a few days after that Wayne told me: “Your parents are going to loan us the money.”

Awesome. We promised them that we’d pay it back in monthly installments. And, the best part: We would enter the coming winter without worrying that our roof would literally collapse on us.

Problem number one solved.

The roof contractors arrived a day later. They shrouded our white ranch completely with a black tarp to catch the falling shingles and debris they were removing from the roof. The bang, bang, bang echoed throughout the rooms and shook our home, distracting me, pulling me from my writing, from my concentration. I looked out my office window to find that the light of the sun had been blocked by the darkness of the tarp.

Later, after all the trucks, the equipment and the debris had been cleared, Wayne and I went outside to take a look at our shiny, new roof. Ahh. No more damaged shingles. No more leaks. We were good, I thought. Everything turned out fine. We survived.

Two days after we had the roof replaced, I turned on the faucet to wash my hands. Thump, thump, thump. The faucet jolted, then hissed. A few drops of water trickled out.

Then nothing.

No water came out.

No, no, no. Ah, hello no.

This couldn’t be happening.

I closed my eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. Not now. We’ve experienced this problem before.

Our water was out. The well was dry.

Ah, crap.

We’d gone from one type of water problem to another. First we had too much coming in – causing damage – and now we didn’t have enough of it to drink, or to cook, or to wash our hands, or even to flush our damn toilets – causing no damage, just damn frustration.

When we moved to this house five years ago, we didn’t realize that the rocks in the “granite state” of New Hampshire sometimes had the potential to make it difficult for the wells to replenish water from the underground aquifer. We had to be careful with our usage or we could run out. The driest season is from June through November. Typically when it was completely dry, it took 24 hours for our well to replenish and fill with water again. But during a nationwide drought?

Yeah. It makes it worse.

No showers, no laundry, and no washing of dishes for the next few days.

The last time we ran out, our pump continued to run, trying to process water that wasn’t there. Eventually the pump burned itself out. A thousand dollars later, we installed a new, bigger pump that the employees at the well company insisted would continue to work – even if the water ran out. Yeah, we’ll see about that. We crossed our fingers that weekend, hoping that this pump would turn back on because we didn’t have that kind of money to replace it again.

That Sunday while I was at a Halloween party carving and painting pumpkins with Colton, I called Wayne at home. He’d had to work earlier and I knew that when he returned home he was going to try to turn the pump back on.

“Hey, how’s the pump?” I asked.

“It didn’t turn back on,” he said.

Great. Did our fears become reality and that damn pump broke again?

Warning, warning. I could almost see the flashing red light flickering in my mind. Time to initiate Plan B.

That night, I applied to Barnes and Noble online. I can still write, I thought as I clicked through the application and uploaded my resume. I winced though. I didn’t even have any references anymore.

I couldn’t sleep that night. A headache started to form as questions tore through my mind.

How much was this going to cost?

How are we going to pay for it?

We didn’t have any money left until that Wednesday when Wayne was paid again. If something was wrong with our pump system, it looked like we were going to have to live with no water for a while.

That Monday morning Wayne called the well and pump company and they arrived a few hours later.

I sat in front of my computer, and once again I’d been distracted from my writing. This time it was voices and the shuffling of employees going in and out of our bulkhead downstairs as they inspected our well outside and the control box for the pump inside.

For the next two hours, instead of writing, I applied for transcription work. I’d read that it was a way to make extra cash online. I found out only 15 minutes after I’d applied that I’d failed the test.

Perfect. Two hours wasted. That flashing red light again blinded me from thinking about anything else. Plan C, Plan C, Plan C seared across my vision.

I huffed and headed downstairs where the employees were discussing the problem with Wayne. We discovered that the pump didn’t go back on because there was still no water in the well. Wow. We really were in a bad drought. I’d never seen the well empty for four days straight.

We were going to have to wait and see if the water replenished on its own. Or, our other option would be to call a pool company to deliver water for us.

We’d decided to go with option number two. We’d had water delivered to us before.

We tried a new company that was $100 cheaper, and they were available to deliver us water – but not until that Thursday.

Grr. We would have to go almost a week without water.

Later that day I went to the grocery store. I filled up the shopping cart with 27 gallons of water. I snapped a picture of the cart and texted it to Wayne. “I look like a Doomsday Prepper,” I wrote.

The next day while I was making chicken soup and recovering from $800 gum surgery, my cell rang.

“I’m sorry to call on Colton’s birthday, but I’d like to discuss with you his behavior at school,” his kindergarten teacher said.

Uh-oh. No parent wants to receive one of these calls. What had he done?

The problems the teacher mentioned were typical for a child in his first year at school, but with my mouth pounding, I still felt like throwing a tantrum like my son. “Why does all this crap have to happen at the same time?” I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs while flailing my fists in the air. I can only handle one problem at a time.

That Thursday the pool company finally delivered our water. Three hours late. But then something miraculous happened: the water pump turned back on.

Late that afternoon, Colton came home from school. I opened his backpack and on top of his folder was a yellow sticky note from Colton’s teacher.

“Much better day,” it said with a smiley face at the bottom.

Yes, it was a much better day. We were good. Everything turned out fine. We survived. Again.

Those few weeks were also a pivotal moment for me in my writing career.

I’d smiled the day I’d read that sticky note and that caused me to pause. A few months ago, I would’ve let the stress affect my writing. I can’t write with all this crazy stuff going on, I would’ve said.

Now? Throughout all of the recent events I thought: I can’t wait to write it all down.

That one, small note had a big impact on me.

That sticky note served as a springboard for the positive energy that followed. And I realized the crap that’s happened in my life is trivial, but it serves as fuel for my creativity and authenticity, which leads to developing a better writing voice.

So, what should a writer do when their life explodes?

Write. Just write.

Yes, it was a much better day.

 

Why I Wasn’t Prepared To Begin My Writing Career

I’d prepared all summer long for that date.

It was a date where my five-year-old son, Colton, would make an important transition in his life.

On that Wednesday morning, my husband, Wayne, Colton and I headed outside our white ranch home. I looked up. A thick, fluffy blanket of clouds had filled the skyline, completely blocking out the sunshine, but not the warmth. It was 7:30 a.m. and only sixty degrees, yet the humidity still squeezed tight against my skin. Like plastic wrap, the sticky weather clung to me, and I couldn’t breathe.

Don’t show any emotion, I thought as I leaned down to straighten out the collar of Colton’s blue T-shirt. This was supposed to be an exciting day for him. If I cried, Colton was sure to get upset as well. I pulled back, and studied my son. His dark eyes looked like coffee beans as they brewed with excitement one moment, and then stirred with a mix of doubt the next.

I knew Colton wasn’t sure about starting this new stage of his life. Maybe he needed some more assurance, some comfort. Even though I’d brushed it earlier, I smoothed and parted pieces of his wavy, dark hair, which still shined despite the lack of sunlight.

I wanted him to look his best that day, even with the emotions tumbling inside of me.

“I hope you have a wonderful day sweetheart,” I said, and kissed him on the cheek as I turned to Wayne. “Why don’t you stand over there with Colton.” I pointed toward the edge of our brick path, overgrowing with weeds, next to the driveway. Then I handed him a yellow poster board. “Since this probably won’t stand on its own, can you hold this up for the pictures?”

Wayne nodded, his lips curving in a smile with ease, and his dark eyes glowed with a knowing glance as he curled both his hands around the edges of the cardboard. Yeah, yeah, I’d wanted to tell him. I knew what he was been thinking as I took a few steps back.

Wayne had been telling me for days: Colton will be fine. You worry too much.

I held up my phone, reading through the view screen the words written on the poster to make sure they wouldn’t appear blurry in the photograph:

Colton’s first day of kindergarten. 8/31/16.

His favorite things: Pizza, Cars, Ninjago.

Height: 44” Weight: 44lbs.

“Smile,” I said, trying to remind myself that Wayne was right. Still, even though I’d prepared all summer long for this moment, and I’d been excited for Colton as he entered this new stage in life, questions still swirled in my mind.

Will he able to pick out his own food in the cafeteria?

Will he be able to go to the bathroom when he needs to?

Will he handle the noise on the bus okay?

Will he go straight to his classroom when he exits the bus at school?

Should I follow the bus so I can see him arrive at school for the first time?

Should I take a photo of him in front of the school? Will the teachers let me?

I took a deep breath of the humid air as Wayne and Colton stood there smiling, patiently while I documented this day and clicked away with my camera.

Then we switched, and Wayne snapped pictures as I stood with Colton. Too bad we couldn’t take one of all three of us, I thought.

As we finished, my eyes flicked to Colton’s new black Ninjago backpack standing beside us on the driveway.

Uh oh. Crap, I thought, realizing that we hadn’t taken any photographs with Colton and his new backpack on. No, no. That wouldn’t work.

“We need to take them all over,” I announced to Wayne.

“What?” Wayne asked, his voice intensifying as I lifted my phone again. Married to me for 14 years, he’d been familiar with my persistence when it came to photographing each important moment that occurred in our lives.

But that didn’t mean he liked it.

For years Wayne had been telling me to “enjoy” the moment, instead of photographing it all the time. And, well, there’s a tiny part of me that agreed with him – BC (Before Colton).

Now?

No. I’d refused to change my photographing habits. I’d spent way too many hours poring over images on my hard drive for use in photo books, only to discover that we hadn’t taken the “right” pictures suitable for framing for us or for the Grandparents, etc. He’s not smiling in any of these, I’d argue, especially when he was a toddler. Or, I found myself saying: These are too blurry, when Colton had been jumping up and down as I’d been taking the photos. When his cousins were born, it was worse. Now all three aren’t smiling.

Of course, it doesn’t help that I suck at taking photographs, but either way I’d been adamant that it wasn’t going to happen to me anymore.

Back at the house, Wayne waved his hand, hoping I’d back down. “Nah. It’s fine Hon,” he said.

I shook my head. Don’t let it go. “No it isn’t.” I picked up Colton’s backpack. “It’s not a first day of school photo without this.”

He sighed, walking back to the open garage.

“We’ll never be able to re-do them after today,” I reminded him. “We have to take them over again.”

“Fine,” he said, shaking his head. “You can re-take yours, I’m not going to re-do mine.”

Ugh. I huffed, but it was too early in the morning to try to change his mind. Ask any mother of a child on his first day of school. They needed a backpack in the photograph.

Despite his frustration with me, Wayne re-took my photographs with Colton. He knew I wanted everything to go well on that day for our son.

When we finally finished, we put the phones away, and we waited. We were ready.

This day was an important one for me as well.

It was the date where I wanted to make a transition, a day where I wanted to add another title to my name.

Then the sound of an engine echoing in the distance interrupted my own thoughts about my future.

The bus was coming.

This is it.

“Okay Buddy,” said Wayne. “Let’s walk down to the edge of the driveway.”

We headed to the street as the bus came to a halt in front of us. The Stop sign popped out, the two red lights began blinking, and the driver pushed open his window. “Colton right?”

I nodded, smiled, and waved. I leaned down, and gave Colton a hug and a kiss. “Have a super day at school sweetheart. I love you.” And then I placed my hand up in the air for a “high five.”

Colton returned the “high five,” waved, and then walked around the safety crossing arm in front of the bus.

And then, that was it. The bus pulled away to take him to his first day of school. He smiled, and waved and blew kisses to us from the window. We continued waving too until the bus drove down the road and we couldn’t see each other anymore.

Colton was going to be fine. He didn’t need his mother that day. He was prepared.

He was ready. No tears from him, no worries. No problem. He was ready to do this. He was fine.

I was not prepared. As the bus pulled away, I heard a sound. It was a sob. And it was coming from me.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that flooded out of me. My only child was beginning a new stage in his life, and he didn’t need me to worry about him. He was fine. I was not.

I wasn’t prepared for what was next.

I walked back into the house, and made the beds and my breakfast. Then, the wheels squeaked from my chair as I sat down at my desk in my computer room.

I’d planned all summer long for this moment too. I’d wanted to treat this new stage like I would if I’d been working for someone else. I’d arrive here at the same time every day, only leaving for short breaks and lunch, until my son arrived home from school.

On that date, next to the title of “mother” I wanted to add the title of “author.” As Colton began a new stage of his life, I wanted to begin a new stage to mine.

Except I stared at my Facebook page, and I read some posts about the craft, but I couldn’t write.

I couldn’t frickin’ write.

Oh crap. I don’t think I can do this, I thought.

For six years I’d been home with my son Colton. For six years I’ve held the title of “mother,” but at that moment, I didn’t feel like I knew how to be anyone else.

I’d thought I’d be happy to see this day arrive.

I’d thought I’d be happy for the six hours to devout to my writing time.

I’d thought I’d be happy to have more time to myself again.

To find myself again.

Hell. Did I have an identity other than mother?

Instead, for the first two weeks of my new life, I sat in front of my computer wondering what my son was doing at that moment, not once thinking about what I was doing.

My son had a vehicle to carry him forward to the next stage of his life. Where was my vehicle?

Then finally, BAM!

One day, I forced myself to hack through that thick self-sabotaging haze and opened up the Word document that I’d started over a month before, then abandoned. It was a piece I’d been trying to write for a workshop. A piece that required me to create a blog post that invited readers into my world, my community, and my message.

When I first started writing that blog post, I’d been thinking about the novel I wrote, and abandoned (I know, I know, this is a terrible habit, something that I have to stop doing now!). I was thinking about the fictional world I created four years ago on paper, just like world I was supposed to be creating online. I was thinking about my main characters as if they’d been real, flesh-and-blood people, with real problems and issues to solve.

And the hero of my work-in-progress, Derek Walker, decided to step in and have a word with me about my tendency to desert my stories.

I read what I’d written, and I did something I hadn’t done for a while.

I smiled.

I laughed.

So, using the energy from that moment, I edited what I’d already written, and then continued writing.

When I finished, I sat back in my chair. Wow, I thought. This feeling is amazing.

I frickin’ finally followed through, and completed a story, something I hadn’t done in a while.

And I realized that in this moment, I had fun writing again. I’d created a place on the Internet. A place for me, and for other writers like me, to get inspiration and discover their creativity. A place full of positive energy for those struggling like myself.

I’d found my writing voice again.

And it felt damn good.

When you’re struggling, I want you to put everything aside, and just have fun for a little while. You’ll be surprised at the writing that emerges from your imagination.

I’m now prepared for the future, for my writing future. I’m now prepared to grab on to my new title, and make it a reality.

And I can’t wait to get started.

And in case you’re wondering, Colton’s teacher said, “he’s doing awesome.”

He was ready to attend school full-time. It was his mother who wasn’t quite ready yet.

But now I am.