A Good Enough Place to Start

5.24.2018

Everyone says I was just like her when I was that age—smart, imaginative, bold, fearless. And it’s not just a feigned humility I feel when I hear that—I remember it. I remember believing that I was capable of anything. I remember it being a given that I would write a best-seller, and win a Pulitzer, and be crowned Poet Laureate Queen of the Universe and also, for good measure, star in the Broadway musical I wrote and produced myself. As a four-year-old girl, those weren’t just dreams, those were realities waiting to play out. And now as a 30-year-old woman, I am tightly wound with insecurities, culminating in my one great fear: that my daughter will grow up to be just like me, that she’ll grow out of her confidence, that she’ll see me and learn doubt, that she’ll one day be 30 and paralyzed.

Instead of writing, I read reviews of books about writing and put them on hold at the library. Instead of writing, I research creative writing MFA programs and casually email admissions officers. Instead of writing, I Yelp new coffee shops that might make good writing hang-outs. Instead of writing, I Instagram. Instead of writing, I generate business ideas that have nothing to do with writing but everything to do with ways I know I can succeed right now. Instead of writing, I fill my life with hobbies that have nothing to do with writing but everything to do with trying to fill the void of it. Instead of writing, I let fear swallow me whole.

I’m afraid of not knowing what kind of writer I want to be. I’m afraid of being pigeonholed into one thing, stuck there forever. I’m afraid of not being taken seriously. I’m afraid of spending time and money on something frivolous. I’m afraid of choosing a path that isn’t useful, that doesn’t solve anyone’s problems or make the world measurably better. I’m afraid of being consumed by my creative pursuits, staying up all night long down a rabbit hole or wandering into a dark, heavy space and then having to get up and make lunches and be present with people who need me. I’m in a phase of life when people need me every day. I can’t be somewhere else. What if writing takes me somewhere else? What if writing takes me into the bottomless pit of failure? What if stay down there? What if I’m no good at this? I can’t bear the thought of being no good at this. It’s all I’ve ever wanted.

I realize, in reading back this cloud-parting word-vomit, that I’m already in the pit. And that failure, as cliché as it sounds, is better than never trying. In fact, I said that exact thing to her just yesterday when she was practicing her letters, her left hand curved around a glittery purple pencil, her notebook pressed against knees scabby with inhibition.

I have to make her believe me.

8 comments :

  • Sarah Bringhurst Familia

    welcome to the dark side! 😉 You’ve already taken the most important step. Best of luck, and remember that any failure you encounter is never more than a temporary detour.

  • Sierra Wilson

    this post resonated so much with me. it’s only this year as I approach thirty that I’ve finally built up the courage to take on my dream of writing a novel. i found support, joined a writing group, and am now almost done with my first draft–a dream that seemed impossible six months ago. stolen moments in the morning and during naps have become my creative space. anyway, all i want to say is that you are not alone and finding the balance between the demands of motherhood and creativity is a journey, but i believe one worth taking. dieter f. uchtdorf’s talk about the innate desire we all have to create inspires me (“happiness, your heritage”). here is one quote from it that seems to fit well with the mothering years: “Creating and being compassionate are two objectives that contribute to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we as His spirit children can and should emulate.” best of luck to you on your journey! i remember you as someone with passion and a desire to good in the world at byu–i was always impressed by your work with community service. the 4 year old Sam is definitely still in you!

  • Trenton Murphey

    I know you’ve been reading about this but it feels appropriate to bring up now:

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  • Megan Geilman

    Yes, yes, yes!!!

  • Alison

    I Love this and can’t wait to eat what you write.

  • april

    You inspired me today, and reminded me to never allow myself or Jeremy to forget our goals or give up our hope – and that hope has to be intentional, no matter how dim the outlook.

  • Jenna z

    Thanks for sharing, Sam! If you haven’t read them already, “Big magic” and “steal like an artist” have been helpful for me in my times of creative paralysis.

  • ashley

    You are sooooooo talented. Yes, with seven o’s. Don’t make us all (and yourself) wait too long to see what you do.

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