Lately I’ve been feeling anxious about my writing. Despite the fact that I have a new mentor (a successful novelist I found through the WoMentoring Project) and a scholarship to the Hampton Roads Writers Conference in September, I’m not feeling very confident about my abilities. I worry that I don’t deserve these opportunities, or I won’t make the most of them. I worry I’m not creative enough, or smart enough, or tenacious enough to ever “make it” as a writer. I worry I’ve chosen the wrong thing to do with my life, and that I’m wasting my days, sitting in front of my computer with what is turning out to be a frustrating case of writers’ block.
It’s a terrible feeling, but I know I’ve been here before, and I know this slump will pass. I will get an idea, I will start writing, I will feel re-engergized. But right now, it’s hard for me to remember that.
On Sunday, I was feeling crappy after a week of not writing much. Paul and I drove to Carkeek Park, and when he asked me how I was doing, I started to cry. Later, at home, when we were trying to decide what to do for dinner, I sank down on the kitchen floor, my head between my knees, and said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”
It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to do about dinner – well, it was – but moreso I didn’t know what to do about my writing, about my life. I felt overwhelmed and alone.
Just then, my phone rang. I sniffed back tears and answered it. It was one of my oldest and best friends, who I’ll call Dana. (She is one of those people who is fearful of the Internet and says I can write whatever I want about her as long as I change her name. In fact, Dana is so anti-technology and popular culture that she actually did not know what the word “selfie” meant until a week ago. But I digress…)
Dana is a midwife in a small, Southern town. She performed over sixty home births in the past year, all of them successful, but recently the hospital in her town has begun an initiative to “decrease the number of home births in the region.” It all boils down to money – the hospital is losing clients to Dana– and they have started making things difficult for her.
“How was the conference?” I asked.
“It was really good,” she said. “I was starting to lose confidence in myself and question what I was doing, so it was really nice to be with other people who share my beliefs and deal with the same issues as I do.”
She talked about how the medical community is huge and powerful, and people automatically believe what they have to say. Sometimes it’s hard for her to hold her ground. But she believes strongly that most of the time a healthy woman can give birth without drugs, without a C-section, without going to the hospital. Your body knows what to do, she says, but it’s hard to listen to your body and obey its requests when you are on drugs in a high-stress hospital setting.
It was good for me to talk to Dana and hear that I’m not the only one questioning my choices and feeling a lack of confidence in my career. It also reminded me why we need conferences. I used to think that writers conferences were kind of silly – can’t everybody just write by themselves without gabbing about it? But now I realize how important it is to talk with other people who are in my same boat, especially when you’re experiencing doubts. That’s why my mentorship opportunity could not have happened at a better time.
Dana and I talked about how women don’t always trust their bodies, and I think in the same way I don’t always trust myself when it comes to writing. Maybe my mind (or my muse) knows what to do next, but it’s hard to listen and obey when I put myself into such a high-stress state of mind.
As Dana will tell you, having a baby takes a long time. It involves a lot of work to push forth new life, but before the pushing there’s a lot of uncomfortable waiting, interspersed with periods of pain.
I’m in the uncomfortable waiting period right now with my writing. I guess I just have to be patient and breathe. And remember that I’m not alone.