facing enough

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I need to write them down to get them out of me, to know what might be standing in my way how I might be sabotaging myself. If I face the fears, I at least know what I’m dealing with.

I’m afraid that my voice, my ideas, thoughts aren’t good enough, smart enough, clever enough, that someone else knows better than I do.

I’m afraid of having to sell. That is, pitch something… mostly when I don’t believe in it. I’m afraid that someone else can do it better. I’m afraid that what I think will be seen as a dumb idea. I realize we all have our strengths, that one of our strengths is knowing what we’re good at, but what if I simply underestimate myself? What if assuming someone else can do it better is really sabotaging myself, giving up without trying, limiting myself? Why not at least try?

I’m afraid that people will lose interest in what I have to say, that no one will care, that I’ll be a "has been." That my greatest achievements are behind me. I know Elizabeth Gilbert says that her greatest achievements ARE most likely behind her, that she can make peace with that when she credits a deity for her success… as in, it was never her achievement to begin with, just as her failures aren’t truly her doing either. Given this logic, it seems the key to success is taking no credit for your own successes or failures. You’re simply the tool, and the art courses through you; it’s never been "yours."

I’m afraid I won’t achieve as much as my contemporaries. Why am I keeping score, and how exactly do you keep score anyway? By books published, marriages kept, children born? Why aren’t I comparing myself to myself? I shouldn’t be looking at everyone else’s stopwatches. I should be looking to improve my own record.

I’m afraid Phil will die, and I won’t be able to support my family. I want the security.

I want recognition and validation and need to give more of it to myself.

I’m afraid I live a boring life, that I have no interesting stories because I never do anything.

I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how to have fun. I miss taking classes, water colors, painting, drawing, photography. I want to do more with it, but I fear Phil will see it as a waste of time. This just made me cry. This is true. I want to learn more. Today I will research classes, day classes.

I’m afraid I have no more stories left in me, that I have nothing left to say. Mostly, I worry that inspiration won’t come, that doors won’t open, that I’ll never have another idea again. This is by far the most absurd thought I’ve ever had.

I’m afraid of being cliche, of not being different enough.

I’m afraid of being so different that no one can relate.

Of being too introspective, of having to be what other people want me to be, of allowing myself to be governed by "what will people think?" Of not being funny enough, thoughtful enough, kind enough, fast enough, gracious enough, organized enough.



  1. I'm afraid that I will lose the spark that drives me to share most of the same things you're afraid of.

  2. I'm sorry, but why are you in my brain? Cause I could have said all of that. Except Charlie, not Phil. :(

  3. Groundlessness, embrace it and keep moving through it all. Check out The Places that Scare you by Pema Chodron.

  4. I know exactly how you feel. I sometimes think nobody will want to read what I have to say, then something happens to change my mind.

    Last night, I met someone I didn't know, who reads my blog. She told me that not only does she read my stories, her husband will go online and read them himself then tell her which stories of mine are "must reads".

    That's a great feeling…and all you really need to remember – that someone cares enough about your work to log-on and read what you have written.

  5. Thank you for putting it out there, for being so real. By the way, your being real isn't what makes you an amazing writer. It's what makes you an amazing person. You've got real talent that makes you an incredible writer. I love your observations. How's that for validation? I think we can all use validation from time to time. There's nothing wrong with that. Especially since you recognize it's something you need to give yourself.

  6. I'm afraid I'm the only one who thinks my writing is worthy of reading. And I'm afraid, but somewhat calmer and more centered now, that one of the women writers I look up to has some of the same fears I do.

    That's how us bitches get things done. Feel the fear, do it anyway.

  7. Well, the other day you posted a beautiful piece about taking a bath with Abigail. I loved the writing and thought to myself that you are lucky to have something else to write about, your beans. I know you blog your life, but that piece had some magic. I was a newspaper reporter in another life. Now I'm a stay-at-home mom who occassionally sells crap on ebay. Right now, this is who I am. I have no byline unless you search Lexis-Nexis for old stories, which I plan on doing when my child grows up so he can see just how locally famous mommy used to be! I think my point in all of this is that I enjoy reading your blog and it is true what all of those teachers/professors say: write what you know. I think Gilbert did this with her world journey book, and that is why it is so successful. It was that next phase of her life. Your life is where it is. Since you are a nonfiction writer, maybe it's time to just live. The book will come later.

  8. Eh, when you stop chasing fame and success, maybe you’ll be happy with what you’ve achieved and open to creating more. As much as you say you should only be looking for validation from yourself, love from yourself, happiness from yourself, you’ve never quite mastered that. You want to be famous, recognizable, adored, on Oprah (whatever happened to that? You mentioned it briefly, then her books issue came out and you weren’t in it. You also told me in the comments a while ago that you are (were) working on articles for magazines, different pieces for different publications…nothing ever came of that either).

    So maybe you do retreat, self sabotage a little, we all do in some aspect of our lives, unfortunately. You say to Phil that maybe you want to be a SAHM in the fullest sense, just be their mom. Maybe a way to validate the time you spend at home b/c the articles and mentions in O never materialized. But you don’t actually make that decision. Your nanny still comes so you can sleep in. Which is fine, I’d work that way too. I hate waking up before 7.

    I’m not sure who you’re comparing yourself to. Dooce? Jen Weiner? Jen Lancaster? Emily Giffin? Please don’t say Elizabeth Gilbert (I also saw that video from the conference and why you would compare yourself to her boggles my mind. Not in terms of talent or book sales but b/c you are so obviously on opposite ends of the spectrum in what you are looking for in life. Everyone is looking for their own calm, but her definition and yours are so different. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html) Lord knows there’s a smattering of 30-something female authors out there, although only a few have the same type of intertwined relationship with blogs that you do. So if you are comparing yourself to Lancaster and Heather Armstrong I can see why you would feel like you aren’t making it (both NY times bestsellers), but why you would even feel the need to compare means you are still chasing that outside validation. You want to be a part of the sorority no matter how many times you say you’re over it.

    I’ve always wondered why you say one thing when you so blatantly want something else. Yes you want to “effect” people and move people, but you also want fame and recognition and validation from strangers. Don’t be afraid to say it. It’s kind of dishonest when you wrap it up in that woe is me verbose. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the Times list. It can be a goal, but just say that. I mean, you would be happier if your goals only consisted of connecting with people, b/c you have fans…obviously. But normal people liking you aren’t validation enough, you want that fancy resume mark. Every book you write forever after that can be stamped with “New York Times Bestselling Author.”

    You are being “authentic” Stephanie, but authentic Stephanie wants to be recognized on the streets, go to the premiers of movies that were based on her books, be stopped while conveniently browsing by her book at a bookstore by a fan. But you don’t want to seem like that’s at all what you want. What exactly do you think you deserve that you haven’t gotten?

  9. I think this must be so tough. To write about, see it and face it. And put such standards and demands on yourself.

    My opinion? The only thing you should be SHOULD-ing is motherhood.

  10. Fear is such an intangible thing. It is something we have no control over and that is what makes it such a big thing. I'm facing some dicey spinal surgery right now and my nerves are shot. I'm not in control. I need to do a better job of taking the advice I'm giving to you! You've put your real fear on paper…or it could be if you print it. Look at it. Absorb it. Then physically throw it away. Live each day in grace and love because you've thrown the fear away. Those things that are out of our control should be out of our thoughts as well. Easier said than done, I know, but when you live in the moment, fear has no place in your life. Love the ones you live with!

  11. This is the normal, crippling self doubt of all writers. Now take what you're feeling and imagine that you are poor, that you have no job after June, that because of the economy no one is hiring English teachers, that you have not been published except for a couple little pieces here and there and certainly haven't published two entire books, that you haven't been written about in magazines and newspapers and that you've never been on TV, that you've sent out a ton of things that you thought were brilliant but haven't gotten a response in months. Imagine a life where you'd do anything to be discovered and add in on top of this that you're a few years older than you are now and that your hair looks like crap, mostly because that's how it looks anyway and also because you can't afford to go get it cut and colored. Imagine all these things, because they are my life. Sometimes being a writer just sucks no matter how successful you are, but at least you aren't me. And I'm not saying this to make you feel worse or guilty about how you feel at all. I'm trying to make you feel better. It'll pass. I've always thought you should write about food for your third book, by the way.

  12. The times when I'm hardest on myself are when I'm being micro-managed, micro-analyzed, micro-scoped. Fact is, you've chosen an extraordinarily public life. People feel the need – no, the right – to comment on your very personal choices. Comment and make judgements. When people ask me why I don't publish a blog, it is simply because I couldn't stand it…I couldn't stand people's judgment of what I do – who I am – what I'm contributing.

    A public life requires strength that detracts from enjoyment of life. It is impossibly hard to live for everyone else. You can never please everyone – because everyone has their own agenda – their own reason for reading your work – their own drama…everyone is the center of their own universe.

    So – coming at it from about 15 years older than you – here is my sage advice: Love yourself. Love your babies. Keep your world safe, secure, whole. Do good. Don't hurt people intentionally. Don't say things on facebook that you don't want the world to know (this is a new one for me). Exude goodness. Set an example you love. Embrace happiness. Cherish your life. Express gratitude.

    That last one – the most important one. Acknowledge gratitude, embrace, express it. Because if a plane were to land on you tomorrow – what would you really want people to remember you for?

  13. Stephanie strive for HAPPINESS! Strive to do things that make you happy and forget about staying with the pack. Happiness and the pursuit of it will keep your life busy and interesting. And hopefully fulfilled. Judging yourself against others is counter productive and silly. If taking a course or two inspires you then do it! You know how to write/work/support yourself and could do it as a single parent if you had to. Focus some of your time on YOU and doing things YOU want. Best example to set for your kids in my opinion and a happy mom is a good mom.

    Ok, done with the cliques!

  14. And NO! My comment did not assume Phil is on his death bed!! Just that you know you could support the three of you if you had to and g forbid you would ever have to. (Hugs to Phil, sorry!)

  15. Stephanie —

    I have read both your books. You are an inspiration to me. You are one of the reasons I've decided to write my own memoir and keep a blog.

    I think we all balance that line between confidence and insecurity, no matter how successful we are.

    Just know…lots of us are still reading.

  16. I just think it's a little ridiculous that people feel they need to blog about everything, that they always need to be on and clever and share so much with so many people constantly.
    Sure, if you're doing that, you'll run out of stories. It's bound to happen. It's like 24 hour news channels. Once you try to fill up so many hours with news, you start looking out of touch because you're treating ridiculous things as top news.
    To feel that you're not funny or interesting enough, that you don't have enough stories to tell, I think, is perfectly reasonable.
    Blogs and people get boring over time. It's normal, and it points out the ridiculousness of blogging, twitter, facebook, and the unrealistic expectations this media puts on us to selfishly think everything we do is, or needs to be, interesting to others.

  17. I feel that way from time to time. Don't you worry you're just in a lull, and when you finally feel like you're going to lose it. Something new and exciting comes along. It'll be stressful as all hell, but when it passes you'll realized you weren't bored for a little bit.

  18. Question: Has anyone ever just copied and pasted your post to their website as their own work or personal thoughts? I have a relatively obscure blog, nothing like yours :) Yet ine of my readers just sent me a message letting me know that someone plagiarized one of my posts! I know there isn't anything I can really do about it, but do you have any advice or insight about this troubling incident? I would appreciate it. Very impressed and continually impressed with the success of your blog! God bless you and your family.

  19. Charlie, as far as we know, is fine but he does have high blood pressure and his heart beats too frequently. So I worry about it sometimes.

  20. I think all people feel this way, not just writers. It is the way our minds force us to get shit done and grow as people. I think it is feelings like these that lead people to create new ideas and change the world. I guarantee you the most successful people in the world have the same feelings of inadequacy, the same nagging self-doubt. It is those voices which propelled them to greatness. Those feelings helped to get them where they are. I know these feelings suck, but without them you would not be who you are, you wouldn't be driven to try, to write, to be driven to succeed. You would just be content with whatever life you were handed and would have no desire to change it, to make your dreams come true and to make your mark in this world.

  21. Marta,

    The person who copied and pasted your writing committed copyright infringement. You should notify them of this and demand that they remove it immediately.

  22. I've been reading your blog for the past few months and have read Straight Up and Dirty…twice now. I find myself in situations much like your own, past and present, and wonder the meaning of it all. It's funny how I know my fears but will not allow myself to confront them. Maybe writing them down would help……I fear that too!
    Thanks for all of your inspiration!

  23. Personal experience of fear can only be an asset to a writer.

    Irrational fear that doesn't let up is a problem.

    It really makes no difference whether you do or don't achieve. You have no real control over what will happen tomorrow. Enjoy now. So go and do those creative classes – pronto! It will take your mind off negative thoughts and turn them into art.

  24. I've been wondering what the big project/job/path was that you mentioned discovering a couple of months back? Is that still a possibility and will you be writing about it soon?

    And, not to be morbid, but please tell me Phil has a good life insurance policy? A must for any couple, even though without health problems.

  25. you should sign up for a pottery class at clayways on burnet. taking classes there got me through some intense times and taught me to channel energy into one thing instead of having my energy prism into 10,000 directions. i wasn't great at throwing clay at all, but it's messy and tactile and fun and not a huge time or monetary commitment. i think they also do summer kids camps (not sure of age requirements), so it's something the sprouts might be into also….

  26. Write what you know.
    The rest will fall into place.
    As far as Phil- maybe his recent health problems should make you aware? Aware of your savings, your investments, your financial outlook, etc. Phil's not your daddy, and you can raise those two on your own if, god forbid, something happens to him. I know that sounds harsh, SK, but I believe in you.

  27. Stephanie, I just discovered you. I read your post today and then scrolled down to gobble the rest. I can't wait to read your book. I'm a writer, too, and instantly recognized that 'unique, fantastic voice' in you. Definitely, your woes will pass. And you DO have something to say, everyone does. The difference is you have lots of listeners, and that is a responsibility which can feel heavy sometimes.

    I blogged for a year, and then I couldn't think of a single thing to blog about. I stopped. Ten months later I'm barely facing blogworld again. Give yourself permission to live moments of your day 'out of the writer's hat'. We lose ourselves in our books and in our words; sometimes you just need to reconnect with YOU. Yourself. Writing is pouring your heart out. We really deserve a moment to nurture it, too. Recharge! You'll remember how wonderful you are tomorrow!! :)

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