Now, it is bad enough if your doubt plagues you, but what about if you have to put up with someone else’s doubt?
This happened to me while writing my first play. My daughter had been born extremely premature and I got commissioned by the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto to write about this harrowing experience. With two small kids at home, there was no quiet space in our rent-controlled apartment for me to work. We certainly had no cash for an office and there was no time during the day to squeeze in my writing practice.
So my dear mother-in-law lent me the use of her basement–a dark hole, with low ceilings and no light and a bad 70’s carpet–which also housed a male relative who was living there because his wife had had enough of him.
He was a financial tycoon who got up every morning at 3 am to deal with the stock market. That meant he went to bed at 7 pm, which happened to be my writing time.
Many nights I never even saw him. But other nights, he kept his bedroom door open and lay on his bed in his boxers with his big bare belly hanging over the waistband and made comments about how I better
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the seven minute writer by deborah kimmett
not think I was Margaret Atwood. (I should be so lucky.)
For some reason, he had a hate on for Margaret Atwood. He rattled on about her at great lengths telling me she was nothing more than a fake. (Actually, there was another F-word in front of fake.)
He warned me I better not think about writing depressing garbage. He also said I had better understand most people didn’t get published or produced. Most artists starve.
It was as if my own inner doubt had jumped out of my head and was yammering at me from the other room.
At that point I could have easily given up. But this was a play I had to write, emotionally and spiritually. Plus this was the only time of day I could get it done.
I did everything to make him stop. I ignored him, made jokes at his expense. I got mad. I gave him the famous Deborah Kimmett stink eye. And one time I even hid headphones in my purse and stuck them in my ears, but I could still hear him rattling on about how I was going to go deaf from playing music so loud.
I gave up trying to change him. I simply ignored him and kept writing. I found that if I kept moving the pen across the page, I could go to my happy place, and write my story.
And you know what? Just like my own doubt, he eventually got bored and fell asleep. And I got a play finished. And produced.
But more than that, I learned some valuable lessons by tolerating this man. I have learned that you don’t need perfect circumstances to create. You can write anywhere. Anytime.
I also learned to build up my resilience when I was faced with other people’s doubts. Since then many people (mostly people with pants on) have critiqued my creative work. Some of them I am related to. Some actually pay me.
Sometimes I even conjure up the big-bellied relative in the basement and I think if my creativity survived that, it can survive anything.
But my boxer-short-wearing doubt was right about one thing. I am no Margaret Atwood.
Speaking of Ms. Atwood, do you want to read about the time the librarian put me in my place? Here you Go, Margaret Atwood.
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