Tag Archives: believing in yourself

Valuing What You Do

Once again, I’m in Telluride. En route to here, Monday, I stopped in Ouray, where a writer friend of mine, who lives elsewhere in Colorado, was visiting their Hot Springs Pool, with the family. The pool is just ten miles off my route to Telluride, so we made plans to meet, there.

I’ve known this friend—let’s call him, Roger—for a handful of years. He’s been writing for roughly the same amount of time that I have, but he’s had much better success than I. Frankly, it’s due to his being more dedicated, and a bit more talented. I even knew who he was for nearly a full decade before we ever physically crossed paths. Even though we’ve since become good friends, I still look up to Roger. Still kinda put him on a pedestal.

A short while ago, Roger was part of a gallery show, in the Roaring Fork Valley. He and a Northern Colorado painter had done some collaborative work together, which was now being presented. That evening, each of their pieces were sold, some of them for close to a thousand dollars. Both things surprised Roger, especially how much they were selling for. (These all were “simple” pieces: a handful of written lines from Roger, a similar number of brush-strokes from the painter.)

I’m in the process of taking on editing work, and I’ve been quibbling with myself, lately, about how much to charge. I’ve been doing small bits of editing work, gratis, for friends and colleagues for awhile. It feels odd and a little unsettling, thinking about charging folks, now. Within the last year or so, Roger has also begun charging for the same work he used to do as a favor for people. And it sounds like he struggled much more than I currently am in allowing himself to be paid. In fact, I’m not quite sure he’s gotten comfortable with it, yet.

I’m still sorta shaking my head over this. Roger has had more than a handful of books published, and has gotten to travel to all sorts of nifty places due to his writing. It’s not at all uncommon to hear people utter his name in reverential tones. (I’m not alone in placing him on a pedestal.) All these and more, and yet he still questions the value of what he does. It didn’t/doesn’t make sense that someone of his caliber and renown would have these sorts of issues—at least not on the surface.

And so it goes. I’ve blogged about this, before. Somehow, some of us have difficulty discerning the value of what we do. You can hold thousands spell-bound with your words, have organizers clamoring to have you speak and/or present at their up-coming events, pack a bookstore when you come to sign your latest book—and, still, question the worth of what you do. Success doesn’t necessarily take away feelings of inadequacy, of not mattering. In fact, it can aggravate those same self-perceptions by making you feel even more like a fake.

And, perhaps, just maybe, I might be calling the kettle black, here. After all, I’ve had scads of folks who know about such things compliment my own writing, over and over again. In fact, Roger is one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’d think having my writing being admired by a writer whom I admire would be enough to dispel any niggling perceptions I have about my writing; however…

How about you? Do you feel you own talents are lacking—even though you’ve been told otherwise? If so, what’s up with that?

(I don’t know, either.)

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And, speaking of valuing your talents, this picture was taken during my second night, here. For the close of their author event, that evening, Between the Covers had scheduled a jam session. Only a single musician showed up with his instrument. Nonetheless, even though it was only him, here he is, jamming away.

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer

The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

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So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

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What am I Doing Here?

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i’m currently at a weekend-long poetry workshop and retreat, in Breckenridge, about an hour and a half from where I live. Mucho months ago, Wendy Videlock invited me. I’ve known Wendy for about two years, and although we’ve actually met just once before, we’ve kinda kept up via Facebook and the poets’ grapevine.

I arrived here, yesterday early-evening. Just a handful of folks had arrived already. Many (most?) of us are staying at a lodge that’s a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Wendy and Laurie James (who lives roughly just a mile from me) greeted and hugged me when I stepped outta the van. As more folks started arriving, I began wondering what I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to this workshop with who knows how many other people, and being jammed-in with twentysome strangers in a suddenly-not-really-all-that-huge lodge. I feared I was about to enter introvert overload.

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This first morning has been quiet and calm. Seems the majority of folks are night owls, whereas I’m an early riser. Fortunately, there was enough dawning light coming through the window that I was to be quietly active without (I hope) waking anybody. It’s being an overcast day, and we’ve had a bit of drizzle. On paper, the day’s schedule is packed. However, in practice, it’s being relaxed and open. My introversion is being nurtured, rather than assailed.

But, there’s this, and it isn’t something new: I’m looking around wondering, in a different sense, what I’m doing here. Because I’ve placed so much crap onto the notion, I’ve pretty much forbidden myself from using “belonging” in reference to myself and my place in things. But nonetheless, I’m at it again. With the likes of (what seems to me, correctly or not) the majority of folks here being published poets, and many with award-winning, or at least nearly-so, books, what am I, unpublished poet, and scarcely-so writer, doing here, hobnobbing with the likes of say, Valerie Szarek, whose most recent work is a Finalist for this year’s Colorado Authors’ League, Book of the Year; Rachel Kellum, whose, ah, is highly-regarded; and also Wendy Videlock, who’ll be in this year’s Best American Poetry, and Laurie James who is considered an Elder in the tribe?

One of the many reasons I’ve placed myself on hiatus in using, “belonging,” is because I’ve placed something of an unattainable extremism upon it—likely coming from my dad only being happy with me if, “you’ve done your best.” (What is, “best,” anyway? Couldn’t you have always done a little more, a little better?) What was my best was, itself, an unattainable extreme. But it’s still somewhat the ruler I measure myself by. So, amid such successful poets, such _actual_ ones, what the hell am I doing, thinking I’m worthy of hanging out with ’em, thinking I’m anywhere in the same league?

Well, one reason just might be because they’ve accepted me as, “one of us.” And one them, Wendy, did make a point of inviting, after all. If I hold these people as being higher than myself, then doesn’t it also hold that their perceptions might hold more weight than mine? Maybe. But, rather, I think it’s moreso the case that what they think and perceive simply, intrinsically, matters—period, never mind whether they’re “higher” poets/people than I. What they say matters too. I don’t have the sole and final word regarding who and what I am.

So, what am I doing here? I’m honoring an endeared one, Wendy, who asked me to come. I’m following through with what I wish my life to become: more writing-centered. I’m rubbing elbows with others of my tribe, some of whom, like Rachel Kellum and Valerie Szarek, make my jaw drop in humbleness when they act as though I’m their equal. And perhaps the biggest thing I’m doing here is stretching my comfort zone of my own perception(s) of who I am, and whom I can become.

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Sorting It Out

Persisting

So, last Tuesday evening, I received an email from my best friend, saying he was in town for a few days, wanted to stay at my place. Even though Wednesday and Thursday are my days off, and I had plans for writing on other things, what other choice did I have, but to say, Yes? So, Jack stayed and I had to figure how to have both him and my writing. As you’d likely figure, Jack won and my writing paid the most for it. Even so, I still was able to make my monthly meeting with another writer who mostly does plays, now. And I was also able to do last week’s blogpost, Thursday, as originally scheduled. All wasn’t lost.

This past Saturday, Peter Anderson came to town to conduct a prose poetry workshop. I’m still fuzzy with regards to what constitutes prose poetry, what separates it from, say, essays and vignettes. And while I’m not all that sure that I did much prose poetry during the workshop’s writing sessions, it was good, fruitful writing, nonetheless.

After the workshop, five of us, including Peter, went out for lunch. Peter has more than two fistfuls of published books, and teaches writing on the college level. Lynda LaRocca has been recognized as one the premier local poets since before I ever moved to Colorado, over twenty years ago. She, too, has been published several times, has won bunches of awards, and regularly conducts her own workshops. Laurie James and Barbara Ford are other longtime poets, with histories and connections that stretch far and long.

I was the odd man out, except, I was neither odd nor out. Because it was only the second time I’d seen Peter, I didn’t have the familiarity and connection with him that the other three did. (Lynda and Laurie are in a performance poetry group with Peter, and two others poets.) And I am somewhat a newcomer to poetry, and especially to the local poetry scene. But, I was never made to feel an outsider, as though I didn’t have an earned seat at the table. I held my own without having to scramble or really try. (If it’s only I who thinks I’m the outsider, who sees me as such, then …?)

Some seven years ago, Susan Tweit told me, “You’re farther along than you think.” I’m still strugglng to catch up.

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Not What I Think

Yesterday evening, I took a walk a little too late in the day. The sun was already setting when I left, and on the way back it was growing pretty dark. As I neared the lights and buildings of downtown, which is actually on the edge of town, I felt I was returning to a place I knew, a place where I’d spent a significant amount of time, a place I new well; but oddly, it didn’t feel like where I was returning was home. There was a distance, a separation between this place and myself.

I’ve lived here for over a fifth of my life, longer than anywhere else. I am known by name, by face, and by both, here. Yet, last night, it wasn’t to home that I was returning.

There’s five and six and a half years separating me from my older sister and brother. My birth was unexpected. I grew up knowing I was at least partially responsible for Dad not finishing college: “I ran out of money. I ran out of smart sauce. And I had him.” Dad was a wildlife biologist, a facts and science guy. This son of his, however, was a dreamer, a taker of long walks, a talker to himself, a keeper of his own company. Mom becoming pregnant with me was just the first of my surprises.

Midway through fourth grade, Dad was transferred to another city, and I lost all of my friends in the move. Subsequently, I also lost the only remaining people with whom I belonged. I’ve felt a full-on outsider, ever since.

At fifty years of age, I still struggle with being liked, with being admired, being worthy, and with having value. I strongly doubt that anyone could ever really become attached to me. That my being alive in this world could have any positive meaning. (Another lesson learned from childhood was to stay out of the way, not to be a bother to other people.) At the foundation of it all, I do not believe people when they tell me that I matter, that what I’ve written and done has meant something to them. I want to believe, but I’m unable to fully do so. I am forever the odd man out.

Earlier this year, I received a Facebook message from a woman whom I’ve known for a few years. She lives four hours away with her family, and we’ve seen each other six or seven times. She is both wise and perceptive, and what she has to say is taken with high regard by lots of many people. Here’s a pivotal sentence from her message: You bring so much to the world, such generosity of spirit, such clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance), such kindness.

“…[S]uch clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance)…” It stabbed me in the heart when I read it. With such precision, I’d been seen and called by name. My self-deprecating bs was also called by name, called onto the carpet. She is far from alone in seeing me, thus. In fact, I might be pretty much alone in thinking I don’t matter, am a bother to people, not both a joy and blessing—that I don’t belong.

One of the locals, here, is wheelchair-bound. A bumper sticker on his wheelchair says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Seems to me that the crux of my difficulties in becoming a writer, in believing that I might have something to offer, is this same inability to believe in the worth of my writing. To believe in the worth of my ownself.

Perhaps I should stop believing what I think about myself.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island, Sorting It Out

RE: Change

So, I’ve been home two weeks, now; and I’ve gotta say, seems not much has changed. My writing took an immediate nosedive, back to what it’d been before. Rather than doing things differently, acting on the insights/reminders I’d received during my week away, I’ve jumped right back to business as usual.

And maybe this is somewhat to be expected. Sometimes change is moreso the verb than the noun. And just perhaps part of my own post-vacation change is seeing how things haven’t changed. My first week back seemed mostly about getting my feet back under me at work. This second week has been seeing and confirming that how I’d been doing things wasn’t working, and reminding myself that one big reason for my week away was because things weren’t working and I needed at least some of them to change.

So here I am, in something of a sweet spot, perhaps: Just a couple weeks away from having seen other and better ways of living my life, and having just this very week seen how the old ways aren’t working. I’m currently bothered with how I’m doing things; yet the memory is still fresh in my mind of how things can be done better. See? It’s not a thing, yet; it’s still forming, still an action, a state of being.

During my week in Telluride, I took no fewer than four walks or hikes. In the two weeks I’ve been home? Not a single excursion, outside. I wrote everyday in Telluride. Today is the fourth day I’ve written in the two weeks since. To be sure, having a job can make it more difficult to make time for penning the pages and walking in the parks. And it’s also true that I’d forgotten how frustrating and draining my job is, after just a week away. Still, I’m not asking for big, drastic changes—just the wee, small ones. It’s okay that I fell back into my old routine. It would have been kinda hard not to. But now that I’ve seen this, I can begin easing back toward better routines. And, perhaps, one of those better routines is becoming both patient with, and compassionate toward, myself, huh?

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Telluride: Day Five

Well, after Sunday’s “day of rest,” yesterday was a more productive one.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer had agreed to meet with me at 2:30, before she picked up her kiddo from school. I was able to get a hike in along one of the trails she’d suggested, before our meeting.

I seem to have come to Telluride at the right time. The leaves are still turning, making the stunning box canyon valley even moreso stunning. Amy Levek mentioned several times during our own hike together, that it was hard to not be happy amid such scenery. It’s also hard not to be inspired.

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My time with Rosemerry was brief, but wonderful. As it turned out, it was the first time I’ve been with her when there hasn’t been some poetry-related thing going on. Even so, it didn’t take us long to get into deeper conversation. I mentioned my persistence in questioning the value and worth of my writing, and myself as a writer; and she said she still occasionally struggles herself with those same questions. To hear that a poet and writer of her caliber doesn’t have it settled and squared away, still has those existentially pestering moments, is something of a relief. If Rosemerry is still dealing with these issues, then my own dealings are certainly not proof against my own writing.

This evening, I’ll get to see Rosemerry again. The first Tuesday of every month is Talking Gourds, the monthly gathering of poets, here, hosted by Rosemerry and Art Goodtimes. There’s a visiting poet who does a reading and maybe a discussion, followed by the rest of the poets reading poems written to a theme selected at the previous month’s meeting. I intentionally scheduled my time here to include attending Talking Gourds. And I’ll still have one more full day here before returning home to Salida.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, Sorting It Out, Staying With the Writing