Categories
soapbox writing

About imposter syndrome and owning your talents.

I was talking to a friend the other day about imposter syndrome. Because I like using big words to talk about myself, apparently. Wikipedia calls it “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Basically, it means feeling like an amateur at something no matter how accomplished you really are.

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A few months ago I took a creative writing class at my local community college. I have a degree in English: Writing & Communications. I’ve had work published in my school’s literary journal, I ran the school newspaper for two years, I’ve been writing poetry and short stories for as long as I can remember and blogging as long as I’ve been mothering. I don’t know that I’d call myself a professional but I have experience in the field and sometimes I even like my writing. Weird, right? But after eleven years of mothering, I found myself in a rut creatively and I thought taking a class with other writers might help (spoiler: it totally did).

When I showed up to the first class and the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the class what we write I found myself mumbling something along the lines of “Hi my name is Jen, I’m a stay at home mom and I’m kind of new to writing. I don’t really have a specialty.” Wait, what? NEW? I don’t know if I downplayed my writing experience for the glory of being judged as an amateur or if my eleven years of parenting make me feel like I’m moving backward instead of forwards. Or if I’m just really weird. But I am not “new to writing” by any stretch of the imagination.

The truth is that there is a little voice in the back of my mind that is always warning me that I’m probably not very good at this. Even if I amuse myself with my writing and people have been kind in the past – it doesn’t make me a good writer. How many horrible poems have we been forced to read by a friend or classmate? Who’s to say that I’m not another person with terrible poetry. More over, my inability to finish any of the novels I’ve started must be proof of my inadequacy, right? Or the fact that I wake up every morning to find that I’m still not J.K. Rowling?

And it’s not just about writing. I do the same thing with my photography and frankly with my life. I downplay any accomplishment so that when someone finally tells me how mediocre I am, it won’t be too big of a shock.

They say that we are our own worst critic and that is definitely true – but how do we stop being that awful troll booing loudly through our piano recitals and writing sessions? How do we start patting ourselves on the back and staking our claim – how do we find the bravery to tell the world that we’re awesome and talented and that we may never be J.K. Rowling but that someday a struggling writer might lament the fact that they aren’t US?

I wish I could tell you that I have an answer but the truth is that right now I’ve just got an “I noticed a problem and want to do better.” But maybe that’s the first step to figuring this out. Sometimes naming the demon is the best way to vanquish it.

Let’s try something: Name something you are GOOD at. Just blurt it out right now – out loud. I promise I’m not really listening – but say it out loud before your inner internet troll can tell you that you are wrong. CLAIM that talent today. Feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

Do you struggle with this problem?

What are you GOOD at?

Categories
family fun mama kat's writers workshop poetry

an ode to the summer: because all good things must come to an end

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the hazy glow of summertime has nearly reached its end

though the sweet taste of ice cream is still on our lips

 

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the fairy wings of summer are put away

memories full of music and laughter echo but fade

we can still remember the idle hours of yesterday

as we return to the steady rhythm of today

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we reached for the stars and gazed at the sun

(carefully)

 

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we ran wild, we danced without a care.

howled at the moon and posed with a bear.

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we languished idly when the moment felt right

as it often did.

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but now we’ve memed all the moments

 

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we’ve plunged all the depths

we’ve plenty of chlorine to rinse from our tresses

the beach bags are empty

the sunscreen’s run out.

we know what this means:

school’s in, summer’s out.


I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. I chose her first prompt this week: Your summer recap in a poem and pictures. Head to her blog for more fun!

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Categories
writing

Ninja Writers: Nobody’s Perfect

I joined this writer’s group on Facebook called Ninja Writers. The ninja genius behind the group, Shaunta, shares lots of writing advice and prompts and invites members to share samples of their writing and get feedback from one another. Today she prompted the group to write about a time when their protagonist acted more like a villain.

I’m working within the world of a story I’ve been trying to write for years now – the setting and characters change constantly, but the general gist stays the same. Anyway, here’s a story from the point of view of someone my main character might consider an enemy. I’m not sure when my main character turned into Robin Hood, but we’ll just roll with it, mkay?

Collection day was the worst day of the month. Nothing makes you feel more like the villain in your own story than marching through a poor neighborhood and shaking down tired mothers and overworked husbands. Taking money from a family that should have been used to feed babies or mend fences. But Gus had to make a living, too, had his own mouths to feed – and this was how he earned that money. He suggested trimming down taxes often, but nobody ever listened. Nobody else seemed to care – they drank their wine and ate their rich, fatty meals. They had an extra slice of cake and loosened another notch on their belt loops while the farmers in town tightened theirs to keep their threadbare clothing from falling off their limp frames. The upper crust of society doesn’t see these people, they don’t know how wide the gap is between have and have not – or maybe they just don’t care.

Gus tried to help where he could. He looked the other way when possible so a new mother could afford milk for her baby. He came by after his shift was over and helped put up the fences. He kept asking the king to lower taxes, dodging a look that burned through his soul, hoping his impertinence wouldn’t put his family at risk, too.  But first, he collected.

He climbed off his horse and walked up to a brick house that had seen better days. Children played noisily in the front yard but scampered to the back when his footsteps approached. He frowned at the idea that his presence scared young children, but walked wearily up to the door, attempting to hush the rebellious whispers in his mind. He knocked and waited, listening to the weary shuffle and then stepping back as the door opened, tired mother appearing with an infant in her arms.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” he said, taking his hat off to greet her. She rolled her eyes at his attempt at polite conversation.

“We ain’t got no money,” she said with eyes slanted, begging him to contradict her.

“I know times are tight,” he said slowly, making sure his words were civil but firm, “But whatever you can spare is needed for the rebuilding efforts.”

“We ain’t got no money,” she said again, with venom in her voice. He coughed uncomfortably, desperately wanting to look at his toes instead of her hateful glare. But he held her eye contact.

“Any goods that can be traded then? How are crops? Let’s see what we can arrange,” he offered, mentally calculating how he might turn corn into cash in the next city before heading back to the capitol.

“Allright,” she sighed after a moment, then turned inside and yelled, “Boy, get this man a bag a corn!”

An energetic little boy of seven or eight came running at her call, disappearing around the corner before Gus could so much as blink. The woman shut the door in his face then, her duty done and Gus blinked slowly, then turned and went around the corner to see if the boy needed help. He was already halfway back, dragging a bag almost twice his size full of corn. He met the boy halfway and picked up the bag, patting the tyke on the head.

“Go on back to your momma then,” he said and carried the bag back to his wagon and nearly died of shock when he found it completely empty. Just moments before it had been filled after a four day trip through the city, four hard days on the road – four days of having doors slammed in his face and four days of children running from him as though he were an ogre.

He’d been making his last stop of the night, about to head home to the capitol and his wife and children but how could he go home now with nothing but a bag of corn? He stared in disbelief at the empty street. He thought he saw a flash of brown hair disappear into the woods but after a quick jog into the forest, he met nobody except a few curious rabbits and a perturbed deer. He fought back tears as he made his way back to his wagon, afraid for his job and his family and nauseous at the prospect of figuring out what to do next.

I kind of liked writing from Gus’s point of view – I don’t know that we’d ever really meet him in the actual story and I have no idea why I named him Gus, but there you have it. Also, we never interact with my main character at all, sorry about that. She prefers not talking to people and follows that act first, apologize later mentality.  I’m not sure if she would feel bad for Gus or not. Thoughts?

Categories
tag writing

The NaNoWriMo Tag.

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I saw this NaNoWriMo tag on The Book’s The Thing and thought I’d play along since I’m clearly obsessed with tags right now – at least this one is about writing instead of just another list of books. And since I’m attempting yet another mad dashed month of writing, this one is super timely. This tag was created by Kristina Horner.

(For those of you who haven’t heard about it, November is National Novel Writing Month, and participants around the globe spend the month consuming large quantities of coffee and chocolate, and attempting to write a 50,000 word draft in 30 days.) 

What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo?

The first novel I have entered in my Nanowrimo profile was called Fly Away. It’s also the only one I’ve finished on time…. shhhhh….. no negative talk about writing in November. Let me rephrase that: I even finished my novel that year! Yay!

Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year.

A funny memoir that talks about mostly embarrassing stories from my childhood but then tries to turn the stories into motivational mushy stuff and relate them to my adult life. Is it cheating that I’m writing nonfiction? Not sure, don’t care.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

I found a great roundup of famous writing advice at Buzzfeed.com. Here are some of my favorites:

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Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why?

Somehow I seem to talk myself into at least starting every year but I have a poor history with follow through. Last year I only wrote 362 words. That was my poorest showing though – most years I make it to at least 8,000. Some years I’ve gotten nearly halfway to the finish line. Fingers crossed that I can finally finish another one this year. Or at least write some great stuff.

What’s your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write?

Dreams and music. Most of my story ideas come from crazy dreams and from great songs. Taylor Swift in particular has a tendency to do such great story telling in her music that my brain is constantly compelled to finish the stories and flesh them out until they become these big spectacular sagas in my mind. Most of my story ideas are just my brain saying, “But what happened next?”

Read us the first sentence from one of your novels.

“Fires blazed across the water, creating a rippling gold wave that flickered and glittered, waning occasionally with the flames, then roaring back to life seconds later.” – from my 2011 NaNo attempt

Why do you love writing?

I love stories in all forms from music to movies to television to coffee with friends. Writing lets me scratch the itch of “what happens next” and “what if” – it takes the crazy thoughts in my head and freezes them in time and makes sense out of the white noise in my mind.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this month? Consider yourself tagged!

Categories
family fun mama kat's writers workshop photography poetry

summer: poetry in motion

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summer looks like wet beach towels, hung to dry

sand covered feet, salty sweet air, water slides

blisters from long walks at the amusement park

sticky faces from too much birthday cake

there’s no such thing as too much birthday cake

exploring new places and visiting old favorites

posing with stone statues that know us well

curling up with a good book, pitching an old tent

bright blooms and loud booms that bring

an explosion of color

long days on the road, lazy mornings in bed

big accomplishments, small victories

bonfires and golden brown marshmallows

family game night and movie marathons

life in excess is the motto of summer

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Find the prompts here.

Categories
family fun motherhood poetry writing

He’s talented, too: MM may be the next e.e. cummings

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My son is learning about poetry in school right now. I’m not sure how much of a hand his teacher had in helping the kids write these, but I’ll choose to imagine that my son is simply the next e.e. cummings and I should start working on helping him publish his first anthology, stat.

Here are some poems he’s written for class. I was kind of blown away when I read these.

Dad

Working, busy

Works all day

Always kind and happy

Father

 

Mrs. [P]

Organised, sweet

Watching, helping, reading

Wife, teacher, reading, english

Teaching, writing, helping

Helpful, giving

Teacher

 

Up high

The sun is so hot,

the sky is so high, high up,

so I can’t reach them.

Unch

We will munch

Monday’s brunch.

I have a hunch…

Rain

There

was a knock

at the door.only a

rain drop was there.

More drizzled on

the door.  

Copyright MFE © 2015, obviously. Don’t be a jerk and steal my son’s amazing poetry.

Categories
entertainment op ed poetry

Music vs. Poetry.

music vs poetry

We’d spent the afternoon explaining The Beatles and Yoko Ono to the kids. The casual lecture lingered on throughout dinner to cover peace activism and the Civil Rights Movement because we’re huge nerds who have a hard time staying on topic. We watched Imagine by John Lennon on Youtube, followed by BNL’s You Can Be My Yoko Ono and talked about communism and the Cold War. Once we’d thoroughly bored our four and eight year old, we headed into the kitchen to clean up the dishes from dinner.

The BNL lyrics continued to linger in my mind and I sang softly as I rinsed dishes, my husband joining in. Hopefully I sounded better than Yoko Ono, but this is not confirmed. After I’d sung one of the lines, he laughed and commented, “You don’t hear the music in your head when you sing, do you?

It wasn’t a jab or a criticism really, just a comment on how differently our brains work. One clear distinction between my husband and I (apart from the height difference and the facial hair) is that when it comes to music – the actual instrumental stuff is what’s most important to him at the end of the day and for me it’s about the lyrics.

I commented that night that without the lyrics, Imagine by John Lennon wouldn’t be remembered and appreciated by the general public, thus lyrics win. Dan argued that without the music it wouldn’t be remembered either, that poetry is not as widely followed as music, thus music wins. I heartily disagreed so he asked for examples of poetry that one would assume EVERYONE knows. At which point I turned into a sarcastic 4th grader.

Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore! I stammered out awkwardly, to which he argued that this was a linguistic something or other big words here and not a real poem.

Roses are red, violets are blue, I countered. A nursery rhyme he insisted, it doesn’t count.

How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways! Hah! I thought, good luck ignoring Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He ignored it. I continued.

There once was a man from Nantucket!

I was making his point for him and I knew it so started quoting e.e. cummings, a favorite of mine, even though I know that his poetry is nowhere near as widely followed as John Lennon or The Beatles (though no less extraordinary) but who cares?? Poetry is music, it’s just more subtle – you have to find the rhythm on your own.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

BY E. E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

What do you think? Poetry or music?

What’s your favorite poem?

What’s your favorite song?

Categories
mama kat's writers workshop writing

The Sticker Club.

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A million years ago on the first day of 6th or 7th grade, a group of the soon to be Popular Girls asked me to join their Sticker Club. I still remember feeling the first tremblings of social anxiety and a fear of not fitting in. Up until then I’d always seemed able to just dive into a group of kids and join their games with little thought of whether I was wanted there. As a Constantly Moving Kid, this skill is pretty important because I was frequently tasked with finding a new group of friends as we moved from state to state and city to city.

But on that morning, as the girls with perfectly combed hair, colorful sundresses and brilliantly white smiling teeth stood at my desk staring down at me with little sticker journals in hand, I felt awkward and plain in my denim jeans that were a little too short and the random t-shirt that had been clean that morning. I suddenly felt less than and ill at ease.

I was like a visitor to a foreign land with no guidebook or knowledge of the local language. I didn’t know the right answer. Did I want to be in a sticker club? What did it entail? How many stickers did I have to buy? What made a sticker cool or Club-Worthy? Were these my future BFFs or was this a cruel trap that would end in me being called a baby and laughed at for the rest of the year?

It was a simple question but it didn’t feel like it and ultimately I imagined asking my dad to buy me stickers and sticker journals all the time and knowing that we didn’t have a lot of extra money, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk and bailed on the idea. I don’t remember what I said to them – did I shrug and say maybe and just never bring it up again or did I say no right away, likely seeming super rude and weird in the process? Who wouldn’t want to be in a Sticker Club?? Stickers are, like, the best!

Looking back, that rejection feels like it was the beginning of the end as far as my shots of being a Popular Girl. There was a moment in the sand there where it could have gone either way but I drew the line by refusing to try. Would it have really been that big a deal to join their club? Stickers are hardly an expensive commodity and my father might have been more than happy to buy me a few sheets in the name of making great friends. I could have gone on to be a cheerleader or date the captain of the football team if I’d said yes that day!

The truth is though, looking back, I don’t think I ever really wanted to be a Popular Girl. I never did like labels and the group of friends I hung out with largely evaded them. We weren’t specifically anything, we were just friends. Some of my friends were geeks, some were big into music or theater, some were considered “popular” and others definitely not. I never cared.

Regardless of what label you want to assign to them, the friendships I forged as a tween and teen were not made by sheets of sparkly stickers but rather by the experiences and trials and tribulations that we shared together.

I am sure that lots of the so-called popular kids didn’t care about labels either and had totally meaningful friendships and that less cool friendships have been formed on less than a sheet of stickers, but my point is (I assume I must have one) that though I sometimes wonder what my life might have been like if I’d joined the Sticker Club that fateful day in middle school, I am grateful for the friendships I made growing up and would hate to have missed out on them for the sake of being Popular.

Stickers are pretty cool though.

I’m writing along with Mama Kat today, answering one of her 5 writing prompts for this week’s Writer’s Workshop. Let me know if you are playing along in the comments section or tell me: What clubs were you in as a kid / or what clubs do you wish you’d joined?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Categories
op ed writing

The perfect line.

this is me staring at my shoes so I won't see you judging me.
this is me staring at my shoes so I won’t see you judging me.

You know when you read a line in a book, blog post or buzzfeed article, etc. that is just so perfect that it will not leave your mind. You keep whispering it over and over – in your mind though, not out loud because you’re not crazy… Okay, maybe once or twice out loud just to see how the words feel in your mouth. And maybe you read it out loud to your husband or best friend just to see if it’s as legendary to them as it is to you. Life changing, really. 

But usually they just kinda stare at you for a minute and then go back to reading their own book with their own perfect lines or they placate you and agree it’s fantastic but you know they are just trying to make you feel better.

But the line won’t leave you because it’s brilliant and pure and nothing has ever been said that well before. It’s a game changer, really. You think about maybe borrowing it and using it yourself somewhere but probably it will lose all of it’s magic then because it will never really be perfect again once everyone starts using it. It will just turn into YOLO or selfie and it will totally jump the shark and become, like, ohmigod, so yesterday. Whatev.

Some examples of recent perfect lines:

He ran his hand through his hair. Like he was confirming that it was still messy.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Am I crazy or is this the perfect description? I feel like in these two sentences I now understand and know Levi completely. I can instantly picture him and remember guys that were just like this. Yeah I totally read it out loud to my husband and re-read it at least five times because it just…

Another one that keeps invading my brain I think I’ve maybe read a few times now and it’s probably like a major thing that everyone is saying and now I can’t remember where exactly I read it most recently but a quick search of the ole google confirms that all the feels or just the feels or feels is a whole verbal party that I was never invited to, you know, like always. And now that I know how opressively hipster and trendy it is, I will probably never use the word ever again. But…

You know???

Okay, it’s share time. Tell me your “perfect line” that you can’t get out of your head and I’ll try to squeal and admire it appropriately – no placating whatevs, promise.