When I was eight or nine years old, I would sit at my mom's electric typewriter and write stories about princesses and Oscar the Grouch. The click-clack of the letters felt powerful under my fingertips. Even now when I sit down to write, I know it will feel so good to sit in my chair and tap the keys with my fingers, letting the ideas that swirl around in my head out onto the page.
Since writing is so subjective, I have definitely encountered people who have not liked my writing for this reason or that. A high school English teacher told me (and my mom) during a parent-teacher conference, "You're never as good as you think you are." Really? That's your pearl of wisdom for a teenage girl going through all the self-image issues that young girls go through in America. In my adult life, some people have been downright Debbie Downers claiming, "You can't write for a living" or "There's no money in writing." Tell that to Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, who were both stay-at-home moms and made their publishing dreams come true (my heroes!).
Luckily, I've had lots of people in my corner to raise my spirits. Another high school English teacher is my friend on Facebook and she still encourages me when she sees me post about my writing milestones. My husband and kids know to leave Mommy alone when she's writing. My parents watch the kiddos so that I can go to writing conferences and workshops to improve my craft. A close friend of mine also helps watch my toddler one day a week so I can squeeze in some precious, precious writing time. Friends and family members have been beta readers for my novel, Voodoo Butterfly. And my critique partners, The Lit Ladies (love you guys) have made my novel much better. Friends, family, and my fellow writers have all encouraged me to keep going. Especially when I'm having a moment of doubt.
Sophie Nouveau, my heroine in Voodoo Butterfly, struggles with the ugly monster we call doubt, too. To quote my book, "Doubt crawled inside of me like thousands of tiny spiders." Ultimately, it is one of those forces that blocks her from accessing her magical power.
When Sophie inherits a New Orleans voodoo shop, she knows nothing about voodoo. Or her family's secret power. The women in her family are specialized voodoo priestesses called Mind Changers who have the power to change evil people good. When someone starts sending Sophie death threats to scare her away from her new enchanted life, the only way for her to protect herself (and those she loves) is to make her spell work. If she cannot overcome the demons of doubt and fear, she will never be able to access her power.
On the surface it doesn't seem like Sophie, voodoo priestess superhero extraordinaire, has things in common with us mere mortals. But I actually wrote Voodoo Butterfly to overcome my own feelings of powerlessness in a time when I was really doubting my own abilities as a mother. Right before beginning the book, I made the heart-wrenching decision to leave teaching in order to be a stay-at-home mom.
Some women are natural domestic goddesses, but I found staying home to be isolating and boring at times. The reason why it was so hard for me to leave teaching is that I felt like I was giving up a big part of my identity. This is not to say that I want to change my decision, but the transition into motherhood definitely reached "dark night of the soul" status for me. Writing this book helped me emerge from a pretty confusing, tumultuous, and doubt-filled place inside of myself. And Sophie definitely helped me get my groove back.
Here's a few strategies that have helped me overcome doubt during this journey:
· Yoga and meditation
· Walking/exercising with my mommy group
· Going outdoors for fresh air
· Playing with my kids
· Talking with my loved ones or with other writers
· Taking a break
· Power naps
Who has ever doubted your writing ability? As a writer, how do you deal with doubt? I'd love to hear your comments :)