Self Doubt & Other Things That Go Bump In The Night

Self Doubt & Other Things That Go Bump In The Night

I love to write. I always have, and I hope I always will. There’s something to me about being able to create a world that doesn’t exist. I can put whoever I want into that world (including myself), and anything can happen. Not only can I create worlds, I can also invite people into them. The biggest compliment you could give to my writing is that I made you laugh out loud, hurt with my protagonist, or maybe even cry in the end. I love that by piecing words together, I create a whole new universe that has the power to seriously mess you up. In a good way.

I love going back and re-reading what I’ve written. I always surprise myself and think, “You crafty devil, I see what you did there.” I love the emotion that comes from my writing. There are times when I’ve gotten so emotionally invested, I’ll cry as I read my own work. The reason is because I’ve pour my heart and my soul into my writing. To me, it is a work of art.

The worst, most terrible thing for any artist, no matter the medium, is self doubt. If you don’t know what that is, you’ve been blessed. Self doubt is that tiny little voice in the back of your head that wonders if you’ll ever be good enough.
“A rejection letter? Maybe my writing is no good after all.”
“She read that really fast and said it was ‘fine’. Just fine?”
“What if no one likes my blog post?”
“What if everyone is afraid to tell me how bad my writing is?”
“What if…?”

Let me stop right there. The “what ifs” are probably the worst thing you can do to yourself. And it doesn’t matter how many motivational ‘Hang in there!’ posters I have if my self doubt kicks in. Self doubt can burn my whole operation to the ground.

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The above picture is my desktop background. Each of the pictures represent something I care about that usually gets destroyed because of my own self doubt. I may have the creativity, the drive, the motivation, the master plan, but if I have a little bit of self doubt, all of the afore mentioned can come tumbling to the ground.

I started doing something a while back. I started saving rejection letters and criticism. Now, I don’t take rejection very well at all. I love people and I want people to love me back. My dream is for everyone who reads my work to think “Wow! What an amazing writer. She captures her thoughts into words so well.”  I realize that won’t happen every time, but it’s a hope. Getting rejection letters and criticism can sting, but if I let those things discourage me now, I’ll never reach my goals. Instead, I started looking at rejection and criticism as a way to grow. In a way, saving them gave them validity. It gave them space somewhere other than my junk inbox. It gave them a voice that said, “You aren’t there yet. How can you get better? Impress me.”

“Rejection letters are a healthy part of the process of writing. Stabilizing, even. They ground you, helping to at least tether your feet to solid ground. Stephen King collected rejection letters for years, tacking them to the cork board in his bedroom, starting at the age of thirteen. With each no, he knew he was one step closer to that yes.” Linda, Book Mama

Stephen King has a gorgeous list of 20 Rules for Writers. The top-most one on the list is this: 1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” 

I don’t know if you saw it, but the cover photo for this post is of a tiny piece of blue paper that I tacked to my mini cork board at work. Since I try and write during my lunch break, having it right there is a great reminder.

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Who are YOU writing for?

It’s a good question. If I’m writing for other people first and foremost, how can I ever be most true to myself? It’s like a painter who only paints requests from other people. It isn’t necessarily bad (especially if you’re doing it to pay the bills), but if you are so consumed with what other people think, you’ll miss out on the whole picture.

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P.S. If you are interested in Why I Write, check it out here.

Why I Write

Why I Write

I started off as a reader. Mom used to read Nancy Drew books to me before bed, and somehow I collected over 30 of the hard yellow backed mystery books. I guess you would say that was step one. I don’t remember when I first started writing. I think it just gradually shifted when I realized I could make up my own stories instead of just reading somebody else’s. Since then, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.

High school wasn’t really the best for me. Not really having friends was the norm. Obviously part of that was growing up in a country where having an American my age was rare. Comparing it to the friends I have now, I was a lonely kid. It was Jenna, Michael, and myself. It’s sad to think that the people who used to be your whole world can so easily be snatched away, whether in distance or in spirit. To cope with the lack of companionship, I turned to my writing a lot. My stories and the characters in them were sometimes more real to me than the world I actually lived in.

Yet there was one place that has ever remained uninhibited by the outside world. During the Bosnian war, there had been a building on the outskirts of Kobilja Glava that was a partially completed medical facility. After the war broke out in 1992, the building was used as a barricade for the men of the neighborhood. When the war was over, the building remained where it was, and no efforts were ever made to rebuild. And thus it sat, quite embedded in the earth; half sunk, half slunk on the backside of a hill, in a field, in the middle of nowhere, Kobilja Glava. To me, it was the most beautiful place in the world.

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I always felt like I could be myself here. No inhibitors or spelling mistakes or hand cramps. My creativity could just flow. I would talk to myself as I explored, planning out wars and battles and fights ending in loss of life or loss of love. I never questioned my own sanity or why I spoke to walls. The inner dialogues could roam free.

I’d bring my backpack, stuffed full of notebooks and pencils and lay it all out on a ratty old blanket somewhere on the second floor. If I got stumped, I’d pace, walking down halls and exploring rooms until my writer’s block had been smashed to pieces and I was running back through rooms and up broken stairs to get back to my notes. Writing always made sense. Sometimes it was the only thing that did.

I’ve found that writing when you’re depressed is sometimes the best medicine. Have you ever noticed that it’s the ones that are hurting that can create the most beautiful art? For some reason, beautiful things come from pain. It makes me think of Van Gogh’s paintings, King David’s poetry, and Mozart’s music. When you’re hurting, there’s a raw emotion that seeps it’s way through your fingers, and bleeds on everything you touch. Your words, your emotions, your work – they’re all living shards of you.

Writing gives me peace. It gives me power. It’s violent and urgent and grotesque and REAL. I am both creator and destroyer. I am both life and death. If a character is too weak, kill them off. Make the reader suffer like I have suffered; like the character has suffered. I can offer hope on a silver tray, and then snatch it away just as quickly. That power that comes with writing is probably one of the reasons I do it. When I have no control over the pain I feel, or the emotions that have gone numb in my chest, I can write. I have control over that. Much like someone who slashes lines into their skin just to feel something, I can control everything, when I am the one writing the script. If I didn’t have my writing, I honestly don’t know if I would even be here. That’s the God-sworn truth.

My dream job has always been to be an author. Before Chesh, the plan was to spend my life alone in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by my dogs, and to write. Now the dream is a little different. It has morphed into spending my life with him in a cabin in the woods in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by dogs and kids, and to write. It’s always been my passion and always be my passion. That doesn’t mean all my writing is dark or depressing. That doesn’t mean all my writing is happy-go-lucky or happy endings. I want to write truth. I’ve always wanted to write truth. A lot of times it’s me working through what I think or feel and trying to relate that to the world around me in a way that makes sense.

Writing is a safe place. Writing is a sanctuary. If I can share that with other people, then maybe I’ll help some others along the way. Don’t fear your inner demons, but let them escape through your pen. That is my redemption. And that is why I write.

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Dinner with Friends

Dinner with Friends

One of my love languages is food. I absolutely love to cook for people. I believe that if you can’t capture someone with food, they can never be caught. These elusive types you must reserve yourself to simply admire from a distance. I figure, if I can trick  you with my food to like me, that’s magic. I’ll gain some new friends, and you’ll eat some good food.

After all, this is how I tricked Chesh into proposing to me in the first place.

Last week I invited two of the coolest people over for dinner, and they said yes. I knew them from college theater, and had interacted (sort of) with each other over the past four years in some capacity. In the tiny theater program at CIU, they had always been the “cool kids”. They were talented on stage, got amazing roles, sang obscure Broadway shows I’d never heard of, and always seemed to be having the most fun whether they were backstage, on stage, directing, or slapping on makeup in the green room. It had been my lifelong dream to be friends with them, and here I was, an adult, inviting two other popular adults over for dinner.

I decided to try making something I had never tried before. A fellow blogger had posted something about re-creating a french meal and had made duchess potatoes to complete her meal. As I read through her post, I found myself drooling. If you don’t know, duchess potatoes are mashed potatoes that are piped onto parchment paper and backed in the oven. It gives them a crisp golden exterior and soft melt-in-your-mouth center. I had never tried making them before, but I like a challenge. In the end the hardest part was trying to pipe the things… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Because I don’t get home from work until 5:30, I prepped. I was so proud of myself. I cooked a bunch of stuff the night before. I lacked a peeler (which I realize in retrospect is something I should probably own in my kitchen), so I used a knife. I grew up in Sarajevo, and no real woman uses a peeler there. The inner Bosnian woman in me was very proud that I not only peeled all my potatoes without cutting myself, but also did it pretty quickly.

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I tried to make sure all the pieces were approximately the same size, and stuck them all in a pot of boiling water with some Himalayan pink salt. I freaking LOVE Himalayan pink salt! I like the flavor so much better than table salt and it’s my go to every time I’m cooking. The only bad bit about using pink salt with potatoes, is that potatoes suck up salt, and so you’ll need a decent amount. How much is a decent amount, you ask? I have no clue.

Once the potatoes were nice and soft, I added butter, sour cream, garlic, more salt and pepper to taste, parmesan , feta, and milk, before mashing it all together into one creamy (and yummy) mashed potato mess.

SIDENOTE: I realized later that I should have added egg. I think it might help with the firmness when you bake it, because mine were not as crispy as I would have liked.

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I then cut up all my broccoli and put it aside. Because broccoli cooks relatively quickly in comparison with the rest of my menu, I knew I could wait until the next night to cook it. Also took six chicken breasts and sliced them so they would open like a hot dog bun, leaving one side still attached like a hinge. I put all the chicken in a giant zip lock back and stuck in my fridge. The rest I would do tomorrow. Now it was time for the sauce.  This is my favorite part of cooking chicken, and since I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand, I decided on a sun-dried tomato & spinach feta cream sauce. The mix in the picture looks a lot runnier, but it was actually a lot thicker with plenty of spinach and cheese.

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When I got home from work on Wednesday night, I melted half a stick of butter in the microwave and then poured it into the ziplock with the chicken. Then I added a bunch of breadcrumbs in and shook up the bag. This got all the chicken covered in butter first, and then coated with Italian breadcrumbs (I had half a container of Panko breadcrumbs in my pantry and used that).

COOKING TIP: If you ever have a recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, but none can be found, use Ritz crackers to do the job. Especially the vegetable or herb ones. Just crumble them up, and you’re good as gold.

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I put down foil in my pans and then laid the butter smothered-breadcrumb covered chicken in the pans. As you can see in the picture, I have more than six chicken breasts. This is because some of the pieces were huge and I cut them in halves or thirds. I spooned my sauce into each breast and then place a half a slice of mozzarella cheese on top of each one. Once it was popped in the open, I piped my potatoes, boiled my broccoli and Voila!

Cheshire showed up at 6 and our guests popped by around 7. With an hour and a half, I should have had plenty of time to cook everything. We ate around 7:30, and everything was scrumptious! I do regret that I didn’t take a picture of the finished product.

After dinner I started on the cobbler, and since we had all resolved to just enjoy the time together, the dinner party lasted until about 10:30. This gave me plenty of time to whip up my favorite cobbler recipe and pop it in the oven. If you’re interested, I found it through Pinterest on The Charm of Home blog, and is a recipe I’ve used many many times. Paired together with some vanilla ice cream and a bottle of Stella Rosa Black, the four of us polished off almost the entire pan. Needless to say, we were all stuffed and happy by the time the night ended.

If having people over means I get to cook more, I’m happy. Good food, good people, good time.

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