Life’s Too Short for Doubt

I am participating in the Writing Contest: Writers Crushing Doubt. Hosted by Positive Writer. – See more at: http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-2016/#sthash.X1qSm6vJ.dpuf


Ten.

Nine.

Eight.

I choked on the air. It reeked of the thick plastic mask that was clamped down over my face.

Seven.

The sharp scent of anesthesia made my nose prickle and my eyes burn. My heart kicked frantically in my chest as I lay on the operating table. The emergency surgeon stepped up next to me.

Six.

Panic consumed me. Chances were fantastic that I was going to die right there on that table. But that wasn’t what was stirring my blood. It was the fact that I hadn’t made an attempt at starting, and very much less publishing, my book.

Five.

I hadn’t taken my life’s dream seriously.

Four.

All because of doubt.

That night’s emergency surgery four years ago was the jolt I needed to bring me back to my senses. Why had I been letting doubt rule my life? Why had I allowed it to keep me from my dream of writing? It wasn’t just the singular doubt that I couldn’t do it. No, it was a myriad of a thousand others: the crushing despair that I wouldn’t write anything that mattered, that readers wouldn’t love what I’d written, if I even made it past the slush pile in the first place.

Doubt became Enemy Number One pretty darn quickly. And with plenty of time on my hands during recovery where my body was limited to bed but my mind was sharp as a sword, I set about the process of slaying the beast. Keystroke by keystroke, word by word, I began the novel that had been chewing through the restraints in the back of my brain. It was completely freeing to at least get it down on paper. The first draft was worthy of lining the cat’s litter box. But I wasn’t going to stop there and let doubt creep in. Polishing to perfection, well, that’s what editing was for. The beautiful thing about it was that I wasn’t going into battle alone.

I sought out valuable resources. I hooked up with a local writer’s group and made it a point to show up at their monthly classes and critique groups. I even signed up for a writer’s conference. At these events, I met other writers who were just like me: struggling with all those doubts and fighting them just as hard as I was.  And together, we started arming each other for the war against doubt. We shared battle tactics and cheered each other on through successes or the epic and inevitable swing-and-a-miss.

And somewhere in there, I realized that I had a voice. I had something important to say to the world. My novel was not only a compelling story, but one that could encourage someone out there reading it. It could help someone struggling through the same health issues I myself had faced, and that the book regarded. It could help someone face the doubts in their own life, if I could just overcome the doubts of writing.

So I persevere. I have devoted time to write each day. Every word I write is an act of defiance against the doubt that would try to defeat me. And as I approach the moment that I begin to pitch these words I’ve written to agents and editors, I square my shoulders and hold my head high knowing that I’ve got the stuff it takes to succeed. Life is too short to spend it cowering under the shadow of doubt. Fight back, get out from under it’s shadow and do that which your soul is longing to do. And don’t wait so long that you’ve missed your chance. There are no rewrites in the story of life.

But he started it!

This place was a Book Addict Jr.’s heaven.  I wandered around, wide eyed at the shelves that stretched taller than I was and the rows and rows of children’s books.  When I was a kid, I would have entrenched myself here and would have never left.  As it was, my adult-self didn’t want to leave either.

I was on a mission.  If I had just wandered into the kid’s section of the bookstore after all these years thinking, “Oh I’ll just buy a few books for the baby shower” I might have been rather intimidated.  There was everything from fluffy bunny bookies to monster trucks.  But I knew exactly which book I was aiming for: the one that had set me off on a book addiction that nearly needed therapy.

I found it – the hot pink and orange cover of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  I smiled as I picked it up, my fingers running carefully along the edges of the pages.  I had a copy for myself at home.  It would be perfect to start the library of my friend’s soon-to-arrive little man.

As I flipped through the pages that Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault had penned so many years ago, my mind wandered back.  It was that dynamic duo that had started all this; it was those two men who had fueled my addiction not just to write, but to craft stories.  I was little more than a tyke when those two had stopped by our small town in rural Indiana for a visit.  I remember sitting in the front row on the floor of the gym, looking up at tall John Archambault as he told stories and jokes that sent us into fits of giggles.  I wanted to be that clever, that witty.

I raced home that day and began filling up note books with drawings and stories as well as I could with my limited 5-year-old writing skills.  The next day in school, we made our own hardcover books.  I still have mine on the bookshelf upstairs.  It’s crap.  But it started something fantastic.  A fever to find a story wherever I look.  A desperation to write them down; spinning and crafting those letters into words and words into worlds.  And a hunger to read, to learn, to expand my horizons as far as I can stretch them.

So thank you, Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault.  You encouraged me to love reading at a young age (and writing too) and that has made all the difference for me.  And thanks to all the other authors out there. You’re making a difference for some person  – young, old or in between – out there somewhere.

And if you have kids – get ’em started early.  Put a book in their hands and encourage them to read, to learn, to grow.  You won’t regret it if you do.

Springtime in the Rockies

Ah, springtime in the Rockies.  The winds blowing down off of the mountain peaks are not only bringing with them rapid shifts between 80 degree sunshine and snowy blizzards, but they are bringing a serious spring fever.  That bug that gets under your skin and into your core, making you itch like crazy for change, for adventure.  For some, it means throwing out all the old junk piling up around the house and getting organized.  For others, it means strapping on the backpack and hitting the trails, seeing which mountain peaks they will summit this season.  New adventures, new challenges, new dreams.  What are those springtime winds blowing your way this year?

The gusty Colorado winds have blown the writing bug my way this year.  And last year, and the year before.  Finally, however, it has worked its way through my skin and lodged itself firmly in my heart.  I have written since I could hold a crayon in my stubby little fingers.  I spent hours daydreaming up stories, sending Barbie and countless stuffed animals on wild adventures before scribbling them down on every piece of paper I could find.  Not much has changed, except that the stuffed animals sit on a shelf instead of partaking in wild epics.  I still fill up notebooks and flash drives with countless stories, and can barely keep up with the stories that crowd their way into my mind on a daily basis, begging to be written. This year, I’ve decided to finally put writing at the forefront.  I am digging out all the old creative writing books that have become slightly dusty on my bookshelves and re-reading them.  I am experimenting with different genres, reading AND writing things I never thought I would dabble in.  And I am determined to take one of those notebooks off the shelf, polish it to perfection, and see it in publication.

This blog is all about writing.  I’ll share my heart, my knowledge, and thoughts in this forum.  I’ll share snippets of my writing with you, and hope that you’ll share with me.  One thing I’ve learned is that while writing is usually done in solitude, it is not a solitary game.  Having friends and colleagues to support you, proofread your work, give you feedback and knock you on your head when you’ve threatened to give up mean the world.  Let’s be friends, colleagues, fellow writers and readers together.