Beating Writer’s Doubt with Positivity

Despite having a few accolades, I still suffer from writer’s doubt, because even though I believe my work is great, I wonder if anyone who matters in the publishing world will believe it is, and even if they will, will it be what they’re looking for? These are the times I am reminded of my third-grade teacher, Miss Cahoon (all teachers are “Miss” when you’re a little kid), told me how much she enjoyed reading my journals (which made me feel like Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn). 

When I was sixteen, I placed first in the fiction category in the Gulf Coast Writers Association’s “Let’s Write!” literary contest for my epic poem, “Nova” (our English class was studying Greek mythology at the time)—a piece which I received a C for because my teacher said it was “too creative.” The win not only gave me a boost because I’d beat out adults but also showed (not told) my teacher that creativity counted.  I still remember my parents driving me all the way to Gulfport, Mississippi, to receive my award at a Shoney’s, where everyone seemed so old.  (A lot of formal literary groups feel that way.)  I still remember Miss Lebo and how welcoming she was and how disappointed I was when more than twenty years later, I learned she had passed away.  

Then, just before my high school graduation, Troy Moon, a local newspaper columnist whose speech at a local school had stuck with me, recommended me for the “Mary Roberts Rinehart Award” (after reading a short story I wrote). I didn’t win, but that recommendation meant a great deal.  I don’t have the original letter, but a copy of it has been preserved in my scrapbook for almost twenty years.

I don’t save every rejection, but I display my successes (frame every single certificate and hang them on your wall like doctors frame their degrees), because positivity breeds positivity. Don’t worry about getting published (but try) and for goodness sakes, definitely don’t worry about getting “likes.” I shamelessly promote my work on Facebook, and Getting published will only add to my joy. It can never be the joy.

That said, sharing what I write (but not everything I write—many publications consider something “published” even if it’s just on your personal blog of 100 followers) and getting constructive feedback, whether online or in person, may not keep the dogs from barking, but it keeps them from biting.

TroyMoon

Updated 1/17/2020

Writing Prompt: On Memoir Writing, and Finding Their Voices

If you ever get writer’s block (which can happen if you’re just working on one project at a time; I tend to work on at least seven, and in a variety of forms and genres), writing prompts might help you get unblocked.  Even better, you might come up with a great, publishable piece that you otherwise would have never written. 

  • The Wife of Brian.  (About not losing your identity, but rather, becoming more of who are you through the marriage relationship.  This would definitely have a Christian chick-lit vibe, as I am not the queen of oversharing.)
  • Second to Fluff:  Growing Up with Pet Parents.  (My mom’s story of having to compete for affection from her mom and dad, who liked to say that “dogs were easier to raise than kids”.)
  • Life with Griff.  (Told from my P.O.V. about growing up with a dad who is an unintentional Lucy Ricardo.)
  • Twice Upon a Time in Pensacola.  (My husband’s story of us, and how we crossed paths before we knew each other.  Love and Serendipity.)
  • Hannah Banana of Florabama.  (Though I had already written this as a nursery rhyme about my daughter, I am going to write another in the form of a fairy tale.  It is easy to take any story, and turn it into a fairy-tale:  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/12/writers-digest-wednesday-poetry-prompt-340-theme-finally-or-at-last/)

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  • The Huntsman of Poplar Bluff.  (My Uncle Bill’s story of his “countrified” life, juxtaposed against the lives of his “citified” children.)
  • Jasper Vizsla:  The Hot Dog of New York.  (Based on Dana Perino’s dog of the same name.  A tale/tail? of New York Life, from a dog’s perspective.)
  • Santa Claus:  The Before.  (A fable or legend about how Santa Claus started his trade/calling.  Maybe this has already been done by L. Frank Baum, I don’t know, but I can have my own take.)
  • Before Laurie Nolan:  A Prequel.  (Laurie Nolan is a character in my book, “Because of Mindy Wiley”.  https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/)   Mine your writings for characters who still have their own story to tell.  You may even end up with a series of short stories to promote your primary work.
  • Lila Caddy’s Second Family.  A poignant narrative (from the P.O.V. of a twenty-five year old Cadillac named Lila).  Lila was my and Brian’s first car together.  She was more than just transportation–she was our freedom to go wherever we wanted.
  • House on Cottage Row.  The story of a house with heartwarming and heartbreaking secrets.  (Think of all the stories Tara, from “Gone with the Wind”, could tell.)
  • Pensacola:  The Dark Paradise.  Think “City Confidential”.  Every town has a story to tell.  I told mine in “The Ghoul of Whitmire Cemetery” (which was published in an anthology sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post, and was based on a true story).  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/12/06/more-good-news/

I believe these prompts will also help you to write in other “voices”.  I have found that almost all of my main characters are extensions of myself, and so I am in bad need of an “out-of-body” experience.

A persona poem is another great exercise in this:  http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/the-many-faces-of-persona-poems