Friday, July 19, 2013

Am I Good Enough?

This post has been a long time coming. I'm not much of a complainer or whiner, but sometimes it just gets overwhelming.  So ... here's my heart.

The thing about putting yourself out there is that you expose yourself to criticism and ridicule.

I'll be honest with you. That is NOT something I choose to do easily.  I've always been much more comfortable in the support role; encouraging and building up my friends.  I know just what it means to be told that you aren't good enough and it is important that those around me always here me telling them they are doing a great job.

As much as I loved my father, one thing he did poorly was telling his kids how great they were.  Dad wanted perfection from us. When I brought home a report card with straight A's, he asked if there had been an opportunity for A+'s. I despised having him attend any of my performances because the first thing he did when we got in the car after a really exciting evening was say, "That was a very nice performance, but ..." and then he would begin listing all of the mistakes and problems he had seen.  It was as if nothing was good enough for him.  He couldn't focus on the great moments of the performance; only the mistakes.  There were some very long rides in the car from the high school to our home.

When I finally got up the courage to confront him with his behavior after a particularly grueling session of "here's what you did wrong and here's what everyone else did wrong," he was surprised.  It was never his intention to tell me I wasn't good enough; he was very proud of me.  He had simply recognized the mistakes and was talking about them.

Maybe he didn't understand that every single one of the mistakes I'd made had already resonated so deeply within me that I was feeding into his criticism of me and absorbing it, making it more than what he meant it to be. What I needed from him was affirmation that my mistakes didn't define me.

Artists, composers, musicians, authors ... anyone who creates ... warily places their creation out into the world and waits with bated breath to see what the world will do with it.

When it is ignored, we might be a little shocked. So much time had been spent in creation and so much attention had been paid to this that it is surprising to find no one else really cares.  But, we move past that and look for those who might share the same interest.

When it is accepted, we feel a little glee that others understand those moments we have invested, but we are still wary.

When it is celebrated, our hearts fill. It's as if the most precious part of who we are is now a welcome part of the world.

But, when we are criticized, everything good we believed about ourself is set aside and all of the negative comments we've ever heard begin cycling through our minds. We aren't good enough. We shouldn't even try.  We gather our creation back in, hold it close and swear to never let anyone see it again so neither of us can be hurt.

I didn't understand my father's need to criticize our performances and when I told him that it was hurtful, he was surprised and then began to adjust his behavior. He was MUCH better as we grew older, understanding that his job was to support and encourage rather than to criticize and thus shut our creative sides down.

Mediocre and bad reviews suck the life out of me. The first thing I do is question whether or not I should even continue writing, because apparently someone thinks my work isn't worth the time I've invested in it.

It takes everything in me to overcome those words and move forward.  And then I tell myself that I had the courage to put myself out there. I hear my sister and friends reminding me that there are a great many others who love what I've done.  Little by little, bit by bit, I return to normal. It doesn't take long ... sometimes just a couple of hours, but those two hours can be a killer.

The question for you is - are you an encourager, or would you rather point out errors and things you disagree with?

I'm an encourager because I know that the artist always finds their own mistakes and if I disagree with their interpretation that's on me ... not them.

There, I'm better now.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another book ... published.

Well, that feels strange.  My third book, Treasure Uncovered, is live on Amazon.  Last summer, I was doing everything I could think of to figure out how to make writing ... well ... real.

I had started and stopped so many different novels over the years that I had absolutely no confidence I would ever finish one, much less find a way for people to read it.  I didn't say too much to anyone, it was a dream that I just held tightly to myself. When random thoughts would occur, I wrote them out, hoping to finally break through the barrier between beginning aproject and finishing it.

So, I took hold of a great book - Julia Cameron's "Artist's Way" and began writing every single day.  There wasn't anything specific that I was writing, it was just words on paper (well, screen).  I was still in the middle of my Master's Degree, so I didn't stress over it, but I did begin writing a novel again (not the Bellingwood series).  And then, I set that book aside one more time. I was so disappointed in myself, but too busy in class to think about it any more than absolutely necessary.

One night, in the middle of November, I was reading a self-published novel and was absolutely in love with the characters and plot lines. It hit me. I had been writing something that was too big for me to write rapidly. But, there was something I could write about ... people I know and love.  Just like the author of the books I was reading had uncovered wonderful characters, I had a ready source of them ... my friends and former church members, people who lived in the many small communities where I had grown up, stories of people my friends knew in their lives.  I had more stories than I knew what to do with!

My friends always told me I should write a book with my stories and I realized that I could turn those into the backgrounds for my fictional characters.  I started writing ... and writing ... and writing.  Characters came alive under my fingers.  Within one month I had a full-blown novel ... written!  I had actually finished it!  The few people I allowed to read it and swore to secrecy (because if it sucked, I wasn't telling anyone) assured me that I should move forward and keep growing with this. I did exactly that.

From the time I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I would sit at my desk in my room with a blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil poised over it, hovering while I waited for my mind to release the words.  Some days, that pencil would hover there indefinitely until I gave up, threw it down and picked up a book to read. Other days, I would begin stories and then of course, never finish the entirety of them.

My confidence has returned, so I will go back to some of those plot lines, pick up the stories and do my best to find their conclusion.

Polly Giller arrived in Bellingwood and began to stir the community's imagination, allowing many to look at their dreams differently.  Polly Giller gave me back my dream.

Check out the whole series (wow, it's a series, I've written a series!).

THEN, go "LIKE" the Bellingwood page on Facebook and join me as Book 4  is written and published.