It is 2020 and a Monday, the 2020iest of Mondays, and I find myself cross-eyed, sifting through pixels of data, wearing sodden socks of the most imposterish of thoughts. Like many of my fellow pandemic keyboard warriors, I was stuck in a Zoom call early this morning, but this particular call hosted professors and academics—people with doctorates and tenure and books—while my CV spanned two pages to their twenty with a sidenote for a contribution to a grammar textbook.
Against these individuals, my successes paled, replaced by an old frenemy—self-doubt. Her musty palm on my shoulder, sonnets of despair rasping in my ear. She always arrives uninvited and lingers too long, scattering grit across my polished hopes. I’ve tried locking the door, ignoring her—she’s too clever: wedging windows and scaling the fire escape.
And so on this Mondayest Monday, she nestled beside me and pointed out the virtues of these peers—paragons, she corrected. “Silly me,” I quietly replied. What business did I have being there?
To say doubts like these were rare and ephemeral would be to disavow the person I’ve become, to disavow these dark conversations I have in splinters of silence behind shaded eyes.
(Why some of us cannot relax or pause is because the alternative is incredibly worse. There is no quiet in the calm, just the circling steps of flaws, vulturine.)
Her worst visits come after I write. I draft a novel and nurture it like a delicate flower. Water it. Prune the dead leaves. Watch it blossom and thrive. And for a while, I bask in this little thing I’ve grown until I gaze upon my neighbor’s garden. In this metaphor, my neighbor is the author of that book I discovered that wrenches my frail little heart, leaves me sick and dripping, unable to eat for a week because the prose, the plot—its essence and everything so seamlessly woven together. I then realize my manuscript is less a brilliant flower, more the succulent I neglected to water for months. Withered and pitiful. Mostly dead.
Some days, though, I think the world of my creation. Other times, I’d feel better lighting it on fire. But my good friend suggested instead of tossing my little flower to the flames that I channel these thoughts elsewhere.
Write a blog about these books—all the books—and unravel what it is that makes them sing from their peaks. And maybe then, she advised, I’d quash my despair and evict my looming doubt.
(Perhaps she’s right.)
So, not that you asked—my credentials, paltry, comprised solely by my electric delight of words and sentences, and their skyscraper forms, their towering rise into paragraphs—but I’d rather build a shrine to marvels of writing than construct a prison of doubt.