Twelve years ago I read the lines for Mama in A Raisin in the Sun during my tenth grade English class read aloud of the play. I slipped into a soft Southern drawl that commanded respect. I felt awkward. I was the least melanated kid in the room and felt removed from the struggles of a Black matriarch in the 1950’s.
Looking back, I can now understand Mama. She’s a strong and passionate woman, trying to do right by her children and grandson. When she gets the opportunity to move the family into a house, she wants so badly to make it happen. But she’s stopped after a conversation with her son, Walter Lee. She mulls over her decision and decides against buying the house, deferring the only dream we know her to have. It’s that doubt that I connect with.
For the past week, I’ve been reflecting on my doubt as a writer, trying to pinpoint some areas of clarity. Looking for any little glimmer of my doubt’s origin or a sore spot that would help me move forward as a more confident writer. But I couldn’t. My doubt just fed more doubt and I started to wonder if I had enough talent to write fiction or enough expertise to blog about it.
I found nothing.
So I gave up and pulled up Twitter. As I scrolled through people’s political, literary, and personal posts, that’s where I found what I was looking for. In less than 24 hours, I had a better understanding of where my doubt came from: 1. too many talents/interests, and 2. too much adulting.
I first came across an article from the Huffington Post where the author talked about how people with too many talents often suffer some emotional blows. They can scramble to master them all, but end up feeling left behind when their peers, who only master one talent, excel with more accolades. Or they can give up on certain talents to pursue only one, which most often ends up being the safest talent they have. I found myself and my doubts in the article.
Writing isn’t my only talent or passion. I often find myself pulled away from writing towards the direction of my other talents and interests. As a result my internal dialogue often sounds like, “You’re not really that good at this. You don’t dedicate enough time. You’ll never be good enough.”
Words have power. The more often I repeat those doubts, the stronger they become and the less likely I am to engage in any of my talents.
The next morning an artist in Brooklyn was tweeting about the privilege that comes along with frequent traveling and how us broke folks are tired of hearing about how “cheap” flights are and how much we should really get out there and “experience life.” It was a completely valid conversation, but one tweet struck a chord with me and my doubts as writer.
She wrote about how frustrating it is to put your dreams on hold when you’re worrying about basic survival. If there was ever a tweet to sum up my past four years in New York, that would be it!
Sometimes my doubt comes in the form of guilt. It’s a little voice telling me that I have cat litter to change, dishes to do, relationships to focus on, so why am I spending so much time early in the morning and late at night chipping away at something that I’m not even that good at?
Sure I’m an independent adult and that comes with responsibilities. But being a creative adult has its own internal conflict. I can’t support myself on my art alone, so I have to take up a day job that drains me of energy and head space I’d rather use for something I’m more interested in.
On top of that, I have to ensure that I’m adequately fulfilling all of my responsibilities as an independent adult outside of work. As I kid, I knew it would be tough. I never imagined that it would be the never-ending to-do list that it is.
Finding the balance between responsibilities and creating art is a challenge that I’m still struggling with. (I’ll write more on this topic in a couple of weeks.)
So what now? Now that I’m aware of the doubts that are stopping me, how can I move on and build my confidence as a writer? How can I listen to my gut and not end up like Mama without a house?
To be honest, I’m not really sure. Even now as I get ready to post this, I’m doubting if it’s good enough. *facepalm* So here are some resolutions I’ll try not to break:
- I’ll sit down every day and write. I’ll write something good, bad, or in between. No one is going to be able to read anything I write, if I don’t sit down and write.
- I’ll demand the time to write. No matter what’s going on, how I’m feeling, or whatever messages I get from the outside, I will write.
- I’ll share my writing with others. One of the surefire ways to improve your writing is to get feedback, so I’ll quiet the doubt enough to get feedback from others.
- I’ll fill up my inspiration tank. There are tidbits of stories all around. I need to be open to receiving them and documenting them correctly.
What about you? What are some ways you overcome self-doubt in your art?
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