One afternoon between lectures at Viable Paradise — maybe to get our blood sugar up, or because chocolate is tasty, or because sharing is nice — Jim Macdonald passed around a bag of Dove Promises. If you’ve never had one, not only are they delicious, but each candy has an inspirational saying inside the wrapper.
I’d forgotten about those until I smoothed out my square of foil. Mine read:
You are exactly where you are supposed to be.
And I teared up.
Seems silly, I suppose; sappy and overly-sentimental, that a chunk of mass-produced chocolate with a saying that appears on, what, 25% of the wrappers, got me all sniffly?
But the inner voice of Imposter Syndrome gets awfully shouty, and even though I was in a room full of kindred spirits, and even though by that point I’d had people say nice things about my writing, and even though I knew that every single person in that room (including me!) was there because the instructors thought we deserved to be, I worried.
I was learning scads and scads of things, recognizing some pitfalls in my own writing, gleaning techniques I didn’t know I didn’t know. Still, I was afraid I wasn’t good enough.
It wasn’t that little square of tinfoil that got me over it, not really, though it might have opened the door for the realization. A catalyst for epiphany, if you will.
I was in a room full of writers, of readers, of book people. The same fears I have when I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard echo theirs: that what I produce will be dreadful, dreadful, DREADFUL! Or the plot tomatoes I plant will wither on their vines. I don’t mean only myself and the other students: the writers in the room whose publication credits would fill pages feel that way, too.
And they keep writing.
I mean, we knew this, I suppose. I’ve hollered “Writers write!” at my screen before when seeing people on the internets wail about how haaaard it is and they can’t possibly. I’ve hollered it at myself. You write through the dreadfuls, through the I-can’t and the I-sucks. Still, the moments of affirmation, if I’ve been there. In fact, here I still am, were reassuring and revelatory.
In addition to a week of writing, there was Shakespeare and Scurvy Cure, and music and conversation late into the night. I’ve discovered I really, really need to practice my gorram guitar more, and that my Richard Thompson collection — which I once thought was decent — needs expanding.
We saw the Pleiades and the Milky Way, and hundreds more stars that are so often obscured by the glare of cities and civilzation. I feel a bit like Viable Paradise did the same for my writing — took me far enough away from the distracting lights of self-doubt and I’m a hack that I could look at my work and see the things I’ve been missing: what I do well, what I can do better.
Pardon me, I have constellations to form.