Encouraging Words – Pass Them On

Greetings and salutations, my fellow Insecure Writers!

On May 19, 2012, I attended a memorable and inspiring writing workshop by award-winning author Joyce Magnin. For a detailed report on the workshop, check out my post – Of Mice And Christian Writers.

I whole-heartedly recommend attending writer’s workshops, presentations, or speaking engagements in your area. There’s nothing quite as inspiring as hearing a successful writer tell you your dreams are within reach. Joyce shared a great deal about her writing process and her path to publication, but more than anything, she encouraged every person in the room to embrace being a writer. From the very beginning, she bolstered our confidence-

  • You are an artist!
  • God made you an artist!
  • You craft with words!
  • You are special!

Hearing isn’t always believing especially when you say you are a writer and someone inevitably asks, “So have I read anything you’ve written?”

We’ve all heard this question in various forms at one time or another. It can be discouraging and frustrating. Joyce has heard it too. How does she respond to this inevitable question? “Have I seen any of the tax returns you’ve prepared?”

She admitted to picking on accountant that day, but her point remains – don’t let anyone make you doubt who you are and what you’ve been called to do. We are made in God’s image and God is the Creator. We have no reason to be ashamed, afraid or insecure.

If you know you are a writer in your heart, embrace it, celebrate it, thank God for it and above all – keep writing!

Embrace it!

My Cure For Insecurity

Greetings to my fellow insecure writers! As we gather together on this sunny spring day, I have a question for you – are you just insecure about writing or like me, are you insecure about pretty much everything you do?

Photo Credit - Martin Ruegner

If there was a support group for everything I’m insecure about, I’d have a meeting every day of the week. Marriage, motherhood, running, writing, blogging – you name it; I’m insecure about it. I lack self-confidence so much that sometimes I wonder how I’ve managed to accomplish anything in my life. By rights, I should still be living at home with my parents.

Do I suffer from temporary bouts of insanity that cause me to take chances?

Most days I know I’m not crazy. So there must be something else that is stronger than my insecurity. Something I’ve just always taken for granted.

So what is it that gives me the courage to pursue my goals and dreams?

Today the answer is obvious – faith. Like with everything else in my life, I thought I was insecure in my faith too. But my life has proven me wrong. When I look back on the risks I’ve taken – scuba-diving lessons, going 9 hours away to a college where I didn’t know anyone, signing up for my first marathon, getting pregnant – I can’t help but wonder, what in the world were you thinking?

When there are decisions to be made, my mind goes in a million directions and experiences a multitude of emotions, including doubt and insecurity, yet my heart never wavers. I have the confidence to act because I have faith in God. I know in my heart that whatever I do, I do it with God – He will see me through.

I met my husband in college, ran and finished two marathons, have an amazing little girl, have stories published, have finished two A-Z Challenges – all because I relied on God. I think the only reason it’s so clear to me now is that I spent a month fully engaged in His Word. Reading the Bible, studying different characters, meditating and praying over what message to convey in my posts has opened my eyes to the true value of my faith and all it has helped me do.

It’s okay to be insecure about everything else, as long as I’m firm in faith and sure of God, who banishes my every insecurity with His own incredible, amazing and unshakable confidence.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

A-Z Insecurity Part 2

With the A-Z Challenge underway, my insecurities still abound. I’m second guessing myself a lot.

After last year’s Challenge, I think of the A-Z as a blogging marathon. Right now, I’m only at mile 4 with 22 miles to go and I’m wondering if I have the energy to finish. But that’s why I love Bible Bloggers! All my insecurities and doubts fade in the face of God’s Word. Every character reminds me that if I rely on God, I can do anything! I’m confident enough to publish my Bible Blogger posts because I’m writing them for God’s glory and not my own – just as Deborah recommends on today’s Bible Bloggers’ blog!

A-Z Insecurity

With the A-Z Challenge just weeks away, I must confess I’m a bit more than nervous. As of today, there are 942 blogs signed up to participate. Will Pocketful of Playdough be number 943? I just don’t know.

Last year I signed up for the challenge with just a little over a month of blogging under my belt. It turned out to be a wonderful learning experience. I met a lot of great bloggers and gained a lot of followers. But it was hard work.

Blogging everyday wouldn’t be as nerve-wracking if my entries were short and sweet, but my idea for this year’s challenge is complicated and would require research, which I have yet to begin. My intentions were to start early, but we all know what they say about best laid plans. I came up with the idea back in October and here it is March and I’ve only given my theme a few seconds thought –insert big heavy sigh here.

Perhaps I could sign up and figure out a simpler theme that would require no research, but then I’m not really challenging myself and I’ve failed before I even began. Since Christmas, it’s been a challenge just to blog once a week. How can I gain the confidence to take the leap and commit to blogging every day?

Actually, I’ve taken the leap with my other blog — Bible Bloggers, which came about as a result of last year’s challenge where I blogged every day as a different Bible character. I’m looking forward to doing that again because I gained a deeper and richer understanding of scripture. Writing those blogs expanded my creativity and enlightened my soul. I feel the need to continue the series in my heart, not just my head. My goal was to have a series of blogs by Bible characters written prior to the start of the challenge, and while I do have a slight head start, I’m nowhere near close to having those completed, which just adds to my insecurity about signing up Pocketful of Playdough.

At this point I believe I will continue to work on my Bible blogger entries. If I can finish them by the start of the challenge, then I will sign up Pocketful of Playdough, but if I haven’t finished, then perhaps it is best to not sign Pocketful of Playdough up. A-Z is a big enough challenge with one blog, let alone two!

Have you signed up for the A-Z Challenge? Have you written your entries? Do you have a specific theme in mind?

Words For Writers From My Running Muse

My writing muse hightailed it out of town around Thanksgiving -for the sun and sand of the Caribbean no doubt. I haven’t heard from her since – as evidenced by my lack of an IWSG post last month and my infrequent blog updates. Writing muse is a flighty muse who comes and goes as she pleases. She is nothing like my running muse who never takes a day off. He’s a drill sergeant who wakes up every day and starts barking at me to run. The only time he ever took a vacation was during my pregnancy – but that’s another post for another support group.

My running muse never lets up!

Running muse accepts no excuses. Raining, snowing, freezing or sweltering, no weather is too bad for running. When I tell my writing muse, I’m too tired to write, she says, “Oh you poor, dear. Just rest now.”

Telling my running muse I’m too tired is not even an option. The response is always the same -“Running will give you energy.” And he’s right about 98% of the time.

No doubt, running muse is an excellent motivator before and during a run:

“You can go faster than this!”

“Speed it up!”

“Just one more mile.”

“Oh, look, a hill! Run it.”

Despite the constant motivation, I sometimes feel insecure in my running because I’m not very fast. To which running muse replies, “Hogwash!” He reminds me that I’m a heck of a lot faster than I was when I first started running and much faster than I was when I started again after my pregnancy break. He also reminds me that speed doesn’t make me a runner. What makes me a runner is running everyday and enjoying it. And since writing muse is on vacation, running muse also reminds me that it should be the same with writing.

Running muse also reminds me that if I am passionate and enjoy writing as much as I enjoy running, then I must take risks. On a recent Monday-evening run a couple weeks ago, with about one mile left of my run, I wanted to get off the main road, but my go-to place to run a few miles without traffic – the campus of a closed school -had the gates up with the ‘Closed’ sign on them. I’m not much of a rule breaker, but (with the encouragement of running muse) I decided to risk it and run through the campus anyway.

After running along the main, lighted and traffic-free road through campus, a security guard stopped me and said politely that when the gates are up, the campus is closed and I’d have to leave. Although, it wasn’t, it felt like a reprimand. My stomach started to  churn like it did when I was scolded by a teacher in school. But running muse wasn’t the least bit bothered by the guard’s words. I got my mile and a little bit more in and no harm was done. So what if the guard told me to leave? I was leaving anyway.

Rejection can sometimes seem a lot like a reprimand to me. The words make my stomach churn and I feel like I did something wrong, like I’ve failed.

“Hogwash!” Running muse barks. I did the right thing by submitting my writing. Just because it’s not selected doesn’t mean I’m a failure. I’m only a failure if I don’t submit. Some risks in life are worth taking, especially in regards to my writing. Rejection just makes me stronger, tougher and better. Rejection is a part of the writing process, just as sore knees and blisters are a part of the running process. The important thing is to never give up and keep writing!

I think when my writing muse comes back I’m going to send her to a boot-camp lead by my running muse. She needs some of his discipline!

‘Tis The Season For Giving

I second guess everything too — even this comment! ~ Carrie Bastyr

My insecurities are not limited to writing posts, articles, or fiction. Like Carrie, I can feel insecure about leaving comments for bloggers. Sometimes, all I can think to write is ‘Great post!’ However, that just seems lame. I feel compelled to leave something with more substance, but my mind remains blank and so I don’t leave a comment at all.

At other times, I’m inspired to write a comment full of sincere appreciation and complimentary words. Satisfied that my comment is worth sharing, I click the submit button, but then worry that I’ve written too much or went over the top. What if the blogger thinks I’m being insincere or worse, what if she thinks I’m a ‘stalker’ or something?

I don’t know why I worry about either type of comment because I enjoy receiving both. I value every comment – whether it’s a simple sentence or a longer note. That’s why my gift to my fellow bloggers this Christmas season is a comment. If you are like me, I encourage you to let go of commenting insecurity and give your fellow bloggers the gift of knowing their words have not gone unread!

 

Wishing all my fellow Insecure Writer Support Group members a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

On Hot Cocoa, Poe, and NaNoWriMO

The truth is that most writers are needy.

~Stephen King, On Writing, p. 220~

As I write this month’s entry for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I imagine opening the door to a quaint coffee shop. The heavy aroma of roasting beans welcomes me. I walk in and take a seat in a luxuriously large and inviting sofa. Its cushiony softness envelops me.

Settling in, I look around and see a lot of people, some are familiar, but many are not. Everyone has a friendly smile as they murmur softly, warming their hands around oversized earthenware mugs steaming with hot cocoa, coffee or tea.

Just as I start to feel comfortable a spotlight falls on me. Suddenly the murmurs fade and the coffee shop hustle and bustle stills. Everyone is waiting for me to speak. The atmosphere is saturated with camaraderie, understanding and encouragement, which gives me the strength to confess my latest insecurity as a writer:

I worry when I think I’m clever. Chances are that I’m never as clever as I think I am. Take for instance my Halloween post where I ‘dressed up’ my blog as the blog of Edgar Allan Poe. The idea of blogging as Edgar struck me over a month ago.  I thought it was a great way to make my Halloween post special and unique. Excited by the prospect, I wrote Poe’s ‘profile’ and blog excerpt confidently.

But as I hovered my mouse over the ‘publish’ button, I suddenly wondered if I was the only one who thought it would be fun to blog as a long-dead, world-renowned author?’ Sure the concept made me smile. But would my writing do it justice? Could I make readers smile too? I steeled myself for a barrage of criticism (How derivative!), a pelting of rotten tomatoes, or worse, no comments at all. The fear that my attempt at creativity would go completely unnoticed almost kept me from ‘publishing’, but I took the risk and received a small but positive response.

More importantly, I enjoyed researching Poe and learning about his critical theory. I don’t remember studying his theory of composition in college. Whether others enjoyed The Tell-Tale Blog or not, the post was worth writing and the risk was worth taking.

The lesson in all of this: Stop second-guessing myself and allowing doubt to erode my confidence.

Before sinking back into the welcoming arms of this over-stuffed coffee-house chair, I must also admit my insecurity about NaNoWriMo. I’ve known about NaNoWriMo for four years, but this is the year I’ve signed up. November is such a busy and chaotic month. But I figured participating in a group challenge would motivate me to make time to write no matter what else is going on. I’d love to be as disciplined in my writing as I am in my running. The first step is to make writing a priority; the next is to make it a habit. NaNoWriMo should help me do both.

I’ll be sure and let you know how it goes when we ‘meet’ again next month. Until then –a round of hot cocoa for everyone!