Self-doubt has a way of showing up in life like an uninvited guest and trying to ruin what could otherwise be a really great party. How many times has each of us been bothered by the nagging little voice inside that tells us we're not good enough, that we might make fools of ourselves, that people will judge us if we try to take risks and do something that will take us outside of what feels comfortable and familiar? I've heard that voice often over the years, and when self-doubt comes visiting with its sidekick, perfectionism, I find myself passing up opportunities to experience new things. Sometimes, if I'm not sure I can excel at something, I'm reluctant to do it at all. I am realizing more and more as I get older that I should really try harder to round up those unhelpful thoughts and show them the door.
One day well before Christmas, Matt came home from work and mentioned that he had heard something on CBC Radio about the Canada Writes contest. The contest had just recently opened for submissions of creative non-fiction from writers across the country, and Matt had made a mental note to tell me about it, thinking maybe I'd want to enter. I was initially really excited by the prospect. I remembered hearing about this contest the year before, and writing something for it seemed to me like a wonderful opportunity and challenge. Before I got too carried away with my thoughts, though, the ugly little voice showed up in my head, and whispered unkindly that I could never write anything good enough for a nation-wide competition. Because I was conveniently busy with holiday preparations at the time, I pushed the whole idea out of my mind and occupied myself with other distractions.
As the days passed, I found that the contest kept popping up in my consciousness. I started spinning around ideas in my brain, writing words and phrases down on pieces of paper, and exploring my feelings around a story I felt compelled to tell. I revisited the Canada Writes web page several times, and read through the entries there from previous years. Finally, one day I gathered up my courage along with all of the ideas I had jotted down on random pieces of paper, sat down at my computer, and just started to write.
The nasty little voice tried to make itself heard while I was weaving words together, but I was too busy to pay it much attention. I loved the thrill of making my ideas come to life on the page, the challenge of pushing myself to try things in my work that I hadn't before. I agonized over phrases that wouldn't come out on paper the way I felt them in my heart, and whispered a triumphant "Yes!" when I finally pieced together the right combinations of words. After an exhilarating and tiring process of writing, reading, rewriting, sharing and discussing, reading, and rewriting some more, I stared one last time at the words on the screen in front of me, took a deep breath, and, with butterflies in my stomach, hit the "Submit" button. I walked around for a whole day afterwards wearing a huge smile of personal accomplishment both inside and out, and feeling like I'd grown in directions I hadn't considered before. I loved knowing that I had actually lived the lessons I like to teach my boys: that it's important to try things, to let yourself make mistakes and learn from them, to believe in yourself and to never stop imagining what more you might become.
I may very well never hear another word about the piece I wrote for this contest. I'm sure there are many talented writers who will enter, and many who will have the ability to express themselves more powerfully or beautifully than I did. But I'm really happy to say with all honesty that it doesn't matter to me. I'm just so darn pleased that I had the courage to stand up to the voice of self-doubt inside and know that I was good enough to try.
When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Who invited you?
Labels: family life
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