I am participating in the ‘Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt’ held by Positive Writer.
Writer’s doubt? Is that a thing? I mean, I doubt myself a lot, but can I consider myself a “writer” if I doubt my abilities to do so? What constitutes a writer? Is it someone who never has these doubts or is it someone who overcomes them?
I eventually decided it’s the second. It’s not about never doubting yourself, it’s about doing it anyway. (Courage is not the absence of fear but pushing ahead despite it. Sound familiar?)
Whether sitting and staring at 10 words or 10,000, doubt can and will creep into the thoughts of the writer. What if my story’s no good? What if I can’t finish it? Do I even like it anymore? What if no one wants to publish it? So how do you overcome it?
At sixteen, I got the first push through those doubts. A little too young for liquid courage, and not quite having the courage to show my friends and family, I sent a piece off to a writing contest aimed at young adults. There was something comforting in the idea that it would be objectively evaluated by someone who wouldn’t be biased and avoid hurting my feelings.
So I enclosed my manuscript, a short story that still exists on a hard drive or thumb drive somewhere no doubt, with a self-addressed stamped envelope and waited.
Mail is slow, and I had submitted long before the deadline because I didn’t want to be discounted because the mail took too long. (In addition to mail being slow, I lived in Germany on an army base which just compounded the problem!)
Eventually I forgot about it. The deadline came and went and I didn’t notice. Then one day when I was fetching mail, I had something addressed to me. It had been rerouted from a different address in Europe because they mistook a 4 for a 2 and sent it who-knows-where. (It was a good thing I was able to send them a typed copy of my story. I think it would have been rejected based on their inability to read it otherwise!)
Once I remembered what it was about, I ripped into the envelope excitedly to find a rejection letter.
But not just any rejection letter. Someone had taken the form letter and personalized it. They included my name, a hasty note to please submit again! and signed it.
My poor parents were so confused. They took a stance of “Whatever makes her happy!” as I pranced about the house with that rejection letter, grinning from ear to ear.
I never did resubmit to the contest (I think at this point I’ve outgrown it), but I still have that rejection letter. It followed me through college, bouncing around dorm rooms, always on my desk as a reminder that maybe, just maybe I am good enough.