Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Your own worst enemy

It's an interesting thing how, in the end, we are our own worst enemies. Whether you be a writer, painter, singer, dancer, poet, or anything in-between. Actually, it doesn't really matter if you're an academic, an engineer, a student, or a housewife.

We are our worst critics, and the ones who hold ourselves to the highest standards -- often impossible standards.

Lately I have been struggling with a motivation killer: self-doubt.

I don't know where it came from, it just appeared one day and now it's slowly built up to be a giant monkey on my back. I was busy this summer, I think most people are that way, time seems to get eaten away with this thing or that, and work gets pushed aside. I've also dealt with some personal family issues, I mentioned it once before, but I'll mention it again here. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer this past July, and it has been a difficult thing, but we are trying to stay positive.

At the beginning of the year I spent several months searching and submitting queries to agents... and getting rejections -- as every writer since the beginning of time has gotten. I tried very hard not to let it get me down, because I just needed to believe in myself. Someone out there would like my work and say yes. It only takes one yes, after all.

I did get a good bite from one agent, requesting fifty pages. I got my hopes up, because I thought if someone would just read the manuscript, I would be in. But I got another rejection. I think normally I would've been able to brush it off, but it just came at the wrong time.

July had been a rocky month with all the things going on with my mother (who, I should explain, I am extremely close with), but I waited as patiently as I could for a response. The rejection finally came August 8th. August 8th was two days after my mother's first Chemo treatment and she was feeling particularly horrible (since that time things have gotten better with the dosage and the type of Chemo they use, so she has very few side effects now), and it was difficult to watch her go through that. It was also two days before August 10th.

August 10th is the anniversary of my father's death. He died very suddenly of a heart attack when I was only ten years old. It's been sixteen years since he died, and for the most part I've come to terms with it, but there are times when it still makes me extremely vulnerable. The first part of August is usually one of those times.

So between all of that, the rejection letter -- while very pleasant and over all positive -- was a hard blow. I took it far more personally than I should have, I'm certain. And since then that little bit of self-doubt has been gnawing away, growing stronger with each passing day.

I haven't been submitting queries, I haven't even been writing. I have many things I do that involve writing, some are rather geeky. But I have projects that are just for me, I have things for friends, I have an RPG, I have my book series (the first of which I am trying to get published now), and I have new projects. All of these things have been lacking, have been a struggle. Even this blog, which is just a collection of my thoughts. It's hard for me to put words to paper (or screen, but you get the idea).

It's hard for me to find the joy in writing because of this self-doubt. I dislike most everything I write lately and I wonder if I'm truly good enough. I am in the middle of a self-imposed writers block. It's not that I don't have the ideas or the time, it's that I wonder if it's worth it. If I'm worth it.

I've slowly been pulling myself out of this funk, of course the doubt remains, but I am trying to remind myself of the joy I find it writing. Not everything is meant to be perfect, not everything is meant for the eyes of others. Somethings are meant just for me, and it's okay for them to be silly or bad or nonsensical.

And I must keep reminding myself not to be my own worst enemy. Unfortunately this is something everyone struggles with, no matter what it's in relation to; career, school, or personal issues. I think artists might suffer more than others; we have to be critical enough so we can get better at our craft, but believe in ourselves enough to put our work out there. It's a very fine line, a bit like a tightrope, and if you stray too far to one side you fall. In a perfect world there is a net to catch you, and then you climb up and try to cross the tightrope again. I fell, now I need to climb.

I wish I could say I had some grand point to this entire thing, but I don't really. I guess I just hope, whoever you are reading this, that you will try to climb your own ladder. Climb it rung by rung, no matter how hard it is, and cross that tightrope to your dreams. No matter what they are. It might take a couple tries, a little practice, but you can do it. And so can I.

But before I start my climb though, maybe I'll but some bananas to appease that monkey on my back. Or maybe I'll just leave a trail toward a cliff and give it a good shove....

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