It is that time of year again – college application season. Thanksgiving is over and application deadlines are looming. I thought today would be a good day to pull a post from 2011 out of the ‘never got posted’ file that deals with this stressful time; because nothing can play on our insecurities quite like having to sum up your life thus far in 800 words or less.
Every year, colleges ask high school seniors to write several short essays that sum up who they are and what they have accomplished so far in life. It’s just a little stressful – for the kid and their parents. You want your child to get into the best college they can and you hate that their academic fate might hinge on something as subjective as an essay. Like many parents, I helped my daughter brainstorm what she wanted to write about, and helped her edit her finished essay down to the required word count.
I was proud of her for choosing to write about the time she made the risky decision to change competitive swim teams. She is an introverted child that does not easily adjust to change. Joining an already established team at the age of 16 was a huge risk. It was the right thing to do, though. Her old coach didn’t believe in her. She swam six days a week and wasn’t getting any faster. When we spoke to him about her concerns, he said if we didn’t like the way he was coaching her, she could leave the team. So, she did. She stepped out of her comfort zone, and found a coach that would help her improve. Her new coach challenged her to test her limits and took her seriously as a competitor. Also, being part of a team of people that shared her commitment to their sport made her take herself more seriously as a swimmer. That self-confidence bled into other parts of her life. She started seeing herself as a serious student, and pushed herself to take the most challenging classes she could, and applied to elite universities.
At the same time that my daughter was struggling to find success in the pool, I was struggling to get a novel published. Some days, I felt confident that I would eventually get my manuscript to the point that it was ready. Other days, I had no self-confidence at all. It wasn’t until I was proofreading my daughter’s college essay that I connected my self-doubt to my critique group. We met for coffee to discuss our current projects and chat. The women were pleasant, but they did not take me seriously as a writer. They told me my characters were silly and the themes in my books were unimportant. They made me feel like I was unimportant. They didn’t believe in me any more than my daughter’s first swim coach believed in her. I needed a change.
It was a risk to step away from that critique group. I was uncomfortable saying I didn’t feel supported by the group and needed to spend my time with people that took me more seriously. I know I hurt some people’s feelings, but when it comes right down to it, I needed to take myself more seriously, which is always a huge risk. It’s easier to say you dabble at this writing thing. There is little risk of disappointment in dabbling. It’s another thing to put yourself out there and hazard rejection and failure. It’s difficult to say ‘I want more and I’m willing to work hard to get there.’
It would have been acceptable for my daughter to get good grades in high school and apply to a decent university where she knew she would get in and do fine. She chose to take another road. She took a tortuous course load in high school and got excellent grades (and very little sleep). She applied to the universities that her guidance counselors said were out of her league, and got in. She’s worked hard and inspires me every day to get up and work to be a better writer than I was the day before.
Is there anyone in your life that is holding you back from being the best writer you can be? Do you surround yourself with supportive people like the IWSG community? Who inspires you to push yourself to be better?
This post is part of the Insecure Writers Support Group. On the first Wednesday of each month, we all post about our insecurities, victories, and struggles. Click on the logo above to see the list of over 200 other bloggers.
The mission of IWSG is: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!