The past few weeks have been exhausting yet exhilarating. My apartment is dustier than usual, my hair needs cut, paperwork is calling for my attention—yet they’ve all been sacrificed to the throne of creative endeavors, including my own paid work. Along with my usual editing, I’m helping to ghostwrite a book; I’ve witnessed a colleague land a major publishing house deal (tried my first glass of moonshine to celebrate said deal); sat in on some panels with editors and agents; had a professor tell me I should consider participating in one of these panels next year; had three people reach out to me in one week for freelancing coffees; and received a full pass to a local film festival in which I stood in a swanky filmmaker’s lounge chatting with the crew of a film that inspired me and then on a boat eating chicken, waffles, and grits at midnight, chatting with a female documentary filmmaker about her work, work that I knew I’d be following.
And I enjoyed every single moment.
And I didn’t feel unworthy.
And the interactions were genuine—artists talking to other artists, artists celebrating other artists’ successes, artists learning tips from other artists. Nobody better than the other.
It’s taken me over ten years to realize my worth as a creative person.
This feeling of unworthiness, this imposter syndrome, this feeling I’m not good enough, a fake, a fraud has led me to shrink back from connecting with creatives in my program, has kept me from visiting campus, has stopped me from reaching out to classmates. Having this creative community so near is part of why I moved back to this town. But what am I? I’m an editor. What writing have I done? What major publications have I written for? None, really. What about the book I’ve been trying to write for six years? How is it coming along? Well, I have one chapter and some notes…
I’ve done the same thing with church. When I am struggling with a deeper sin, I stay away. Queen of unequally yoked relationships that led me to compromise my values and faith, I decided that instead of being a hypocrite Christian on the outside, horrible sinner on the inside, I’d just stay away. And I did. Then, when me and unequally yoked guy broke up, I’d be back in church.
I can’t do half-assed.
I can’t do fake.
Now I’m embarking on my first paid book assignment in years, and it is one that allows me to experiment with humor (a secret writing interest), as I insert references to TV shows and other cultural things like mullets, online dating, and the like.
It is wonderful. And it is helping me to see that I can PRODUCE.
I am capable of writing.
I can do this.
Still, I wish it hadn’t taken so long to know this.
I’ve always been a writer, but things have gotten in the way. And I could list them all here and make a sob story out of them—things like my father’s death and the multiple moves and losses; the relationship I was in that was colored by some yucky stuff too personal to mention; the day-long anxiety attack that came with the front-page story I produced for a fairly large paper, an attack that led me to turn away from the second front-page story, from this paper that I knew was priming me to be a reporter, an attack that led me away from writing for a few years—sure, I could list these things and others, or I could share how with help I’ve been climbing out of the pit of unworthiness and anxiety step by step, determined to find my way back to my passion.
I could tell you of how the God I believe in has been with me every step of the way, even when I was in those unequally yoked relationships. How he never gave up on me. How he knew what was in my heart, how my desire to serve him was real. Authentic.
I could tell you of the counseling I went through and the support group I belonged to that helped me through the grief, the relationship yuckiness, the abandonment remnants that remained from childhood, and how the tools these counselors provided propelled me further out of the pit, how they are nothing to be ashamed of.
I could tell you of the church class I took and how one night my Lord gave me an epiphany about my raw honesty—that it was a gift, a gift that may help others find courage and healing themselves. For so long, I felt like an oddball whose need to share her personal experiences was “too much.” That night was the first time I saw its value. And I thought of how another friend’s expressive, inspirational Facebook posts were a kind of church to me when I was too ashamed to go to a brick-and-mortar church.
I could tell you of the burnout I experienced, forgetting that just because you are your own boss, you still need to treat yourself as an employee and give yourself a vacation. I could tell you how this burnout led me to take three full days off to do nothing but eat good food, rest, have fun, and write. How these three days led me to the local arboretum, where I sat in a quiet Japanese teahouse—its windows open to a babbling brook, fresh spring air, and birdsong—and how the tears came, how I just cried and cried with release and a joy rising up out of my heart, a deep joy because I knew that “it” was returning, refusing to be pushed down any more. How that same day I sat in a local coffee shop, filling a legal pad with pages upon pages of notes for the book I had wanted to write for years.
I could tell you how I applied for a residency to have uninterrupted time to write said book and also so I’d actually start the book, how I am anxiously awaiting the letter telling me if I got in, but still knowing it will happen. That it’s time.
I could tell you of the film I went to last week at a local film festival, a gorgeous film in the Western-type genre in which the main scriptwriter admitted that it took seven years to make, and that there were three years that he shelved it, years in which he focused on settling in after a move with his family and a new job. I could tell you how this story inspired me and demonstrated that, sometimes, good things take time, that there were other talented people out there who put their art aside for a time while dealing with real life stuff. That there was hope for me, too, then. How I came home and wrote a Facebook post about the film inspiring me, and how later I’d stand in a swanky filmmaker’s lounge and have the opportunity to read that scriptwriter my post.
One day during these past few weeks, I had coffee with a dear friend. She reached her hand across the table to touch my sweater.
“Is that cashmere?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, because cashmere was luxury. Though I hadn’t bought the sweater (it was given to me in a bag of clothes by a friend), I couldn’t even imagine owning a sweater that typically ran hundreds of dollars.
Cashmere was way out of my league.
Later that day as I grew warm, I took off the sweater and just out of curiosity looked at the tag.
It was cashmere.