Patrick and I have been going through boxes from our garage lately, sorting out what we want to keep and what we can get rid of. Mostly, we’re coming up with lots to get rid of, along with some nice surprises that we definitely want to keep…
…but every so often we find something really special.
I was in our room just now when Patrick came up, holding a sheet of paper he’d found in one of those boxes. “You have to see this,” he said. “And you have to remember this, every time you start worrying. Just look at it!”
So I did.
(I know it isn’t clear enough to read properly, but I wanted to post the actual photo as evidence, before the transcript.)
It’s dated 14th March, 2003, and I wrote it inspired by an exercise in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, where she suggests that you write out all of the awful thoughts that pop up in your head as “Blurts”, all in a row – writing them in a mad rush to get them all out there honestly, without reservation – and then counter them with “Anti-Blurts,” the reassurance that you would give a friend who had the same thoughts about herself.
And here, for posterity, were mine in March of 2003. It was two years after I’d attended the Clarion West writing workshop, but I hadn’t managed to sell a single short story since 1999 (and oh, was I trying, every single day!). I was living with (and loving) a writer who was selling tons of wonderful short stories to great magazines, and who had already gotten an agent – but I still didn’t even have the nerve, at that point, to revise the books that I’d first-drafted so that I could send them out on submission. I was too afraid to even try.
And these were the secret thoughts that haunted me as I tried to do my own writing. These (in case you can’t read them in that photo) are the Blurts that I wrote, almost 13 years ago:
“1. I’m never going to get any short stories published.
“2. I’ll never be as good a writer as Patrick is.
“3. I’ll always feel like a failure.
“4. I’ll never be a professional writer.
“5. I’m a really horrible person & small & yucky & monstrous for being jealous of the person I love.
“6. I don’t deserve to have any success in writing.
“7. I’m only a wannabe writer.
“8. I’m never going to have the success I dream of.
“9. I’m never going to be a real writer, much less a good one.”
Of course, I wrote Anti-Blurts back to myself, reassuring myself the way I would reassure a friend who said the same things to me. And it helped a little bit to do that…even if I didn’t really quite believe those reassurances at the time.
I didn’t even remember making this list (and crying as I wrote it – oh, I remember it vividly now!), until Patrick found it just now and brought it up to me.
“You have to remember this,” he told me, “every time you feel insecure. REMEMBER this! And look at where you are now!”
…Because here I am, at the tail end of the week where I announced my fourth book sale in just over a year, my seventh book sale in total. I’m working on revising my fourth (to-be-published) MG book and getting ready to revise my second (to-be-published) adult book…while I get my taxes ready, as always for the last several years, as a professional author. I’ve sold over 36 short stories since I wrote that list in 2003, and several of them have been reprinted.
I genuinely could not have imagined this situation 13 years ago, when I was writing those desperate, miserable, terrified blurts.
And even though it feels kind of scary and vulnerable to post that desperate list here for anyone to see…I actually think it’s really important, for the sake of every other writer out there who worries that they, too, will never get published (or never get published again), even when it’s what they want more than anything else in the world.
…For everyone who compares themselves to the writers they love and (in their head) always comes up lacking.
…For everyone who needs this reminder:
I believe in you (just like Patrick fiercely believed in me all those years ago, when he was the one getting sales and I wasn’t – but he REFUSED to let me act like he was “the real writer” in our partnership).
I believe in you.
And I hope you can believe in yourself, too.