"Doubt can be a bond ..."
|Doubt ... it can be "a bond as powerful and sustaining as |
certainty" (Doubt ) (Image: "Splatter Question" by Bensik Imeri)
Thank God for quotes like this, because without them, I don’t think I could ever be a writer.
During this week’s My Name Is Not Bob (MNINB) Twitter Chat, the first question asked if we ever doubt ourselves as writers. For me, the answer is a resounding yes.
And here’s why.
the seed of doubt
This past week, I finally got an update on a chapbook competition I had entered a while ago. The press released their list of the top ten finalists … and I was nowhere on it. What made it even worse was that instead of an email letting me know this, I only stumbled upon the news by catching a glimpse of a Facebook update. I can still feel the sinking sensation in my stomach when I clicked the link and didn’t see my name. It was like someone had taken all the joyous butterflies in my stomach and sprayed them with pesticides. Not fun.
A few days later, on Monday of this week, I got an email from the same press letting me know they were not interested in the poems I had sent for their journal, either.
the seed blooms
Days and weeks like these … I can’t help but doubt myself as a writer. As a poet. As a human being. (Okay … I just wandered onto Hyperbole Avenue there for a sec.) I feel that tiny voice rise up that says, “You know, Khara … You started off in English Education. You could be teaching high school English right now. You didn’t have to put yourself through this.”
I know … I know …
“How can you call yourself a poet anyway?” it asks me. “What proof do you have? So a few people say they like your poems. Guess who’s not saying it?” And then it whispers: “The editors.”
Yeah … I know …
“You’ve got, what … Two, maybe three, publications to your name? And honestly, can you really count half of those? Does one acceptance letter out of, like, thirty rejections sound like a good qualification for a poet to you?”
And THAT is where my inner critic has finally crossed the line.
i'm a lion
I know my failures do not define me as a writer, as a poet. Even though they hurt, I don’t think of them as failures at all: I think of them as growth spurts. You know, that painful period when your teeth are coming in and your limbs stretch out and suddenly your shoes don’t fit and you’re finding curves and hair and bits of you you’ve never seen before? I can’t help but think that all these setbacks are just making me more and more like a lion cub. If I give up now I’ll die a lion cub; the hyenas will laugh as they pick and paw at my bones. But if I keep at it, despite the pain, despite the setbacks, despite that voice inside saying, “You’re no lion … you’re a kitty compared to all those other lions” … at some point, I’ll be a lion.
But at the same time, I cannot deny that doubt both begins and ends this story, just as it begins and ends the movie Doubt. And though we cannot grow without them, as Sister Aloysius says in the film ... "I have such doubts."
"be a lion"
This got kind of heavy on me, but maybe for some of you out there experiencing the same level of doubt, you'll be encouraged to know that as much as we can all be Sister Aloysius sometimes, we can also be Father Flynn. Remember, in your doubt, you have formed a bond with the community of writers. We are, all of us, always doubting. Always wondering if we made the right choices. As long as we have pens, we will have doubts. But in the midst of that doubt, we are bound together, and together: we are lions.
Your Turn: Do you ever doubt yourself as a writer?
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Read previous Personal Update Wednesday posts from Our Lost Jungle: