Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.

______________________________________________________

ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.

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29 Comments

Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, craft~writing, Creativity, Farewell, Happiness, joy, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Writing

29 responses to “Exchanging Doubt for Joy

  1. Oh, this is such a powerful and important post! It takes such guts to share something like this, and its effects can be profound as it reaches all those struggling silently in similar ways. Best wishes on your flight from the nest. Your attitude is an inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christine Hayes

      Thank you, Ann. I’ve watched your courage from afar with great admiration! I know you have inspired so many of us to stretch out of our comfort zones and try to make a difference.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine, There is power in honesty. Both for the person who says the words and for those who hear them. Thank you for trusting us to hear and understand. I’m going to imagine you sending doubt to the kennel today and writing a scene a la Steven Nelson.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christine Hayes

      Thank you, Mylisa. I have so enjoyed getting to know you over the years, if mostly through the interwebz! So excited for your book birthday!!

      Like

  3. tamaraellissmith

    Chris. I wholeheartedly agree with Mylisa. There is such power in honesty. It rings clear like a bell and reverberates far and hits so hard, deep inside other people. Of course I can’t know just what you mean…but I feel like I know just what you mean. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. And yes yes yes…let’s all make a vow to seek out that joy… ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Janet Fox

    Gorgeous thoughts, Chris, and we will miss you so much!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Luke Reynolds

    Such a beautiful and honest post, Christine. It resonates deeply with me, and I applaud your courage, inspiration, and trust. Yes!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christine Hayes

      Thank you so much, Luke! I think so many of us struggle with this that we should never be afraid to share with each other.

      Like

  6. Such a moving post, Christine! My husband, a practical man, summed it up simply when I was feeling discouraged and disappointed about my work: “You are a writer, Carole, and are compelled to write.” I would add – “So do it for its own sake – and yours – no matter what.” 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Autumn

    Christine, thanks so much for this post. So many of us feel this way (esp those of us still working toward publication – I was going to say still persevering but that is all of us really) ~ and it helps when someone else touches on it and opens that space.

    I also wanted to thank you for introducing me to Steven Sharp Nelson – I adore the cello and am happily listening to him play as I type this. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christine Hayes

      Oh, I’m so glad you’ve discovered him! I just love his music, and he has a great sense of humor, too. Best wishes to you!

      Like

  8. mariagianferrari

    Christine, your post moved me to tears with its feeling and honesty. Thank you for bringing to light what I also often feel, the highs and the lows. It’s as if writing has bi-polarness as a built-in requirement. So glad to hear that you’re feeling better and finding joy! Hugs to you & fly high! OOOOO

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Hayes

      Much love to you, Maria. You are a light and an incredible support to everyone around you. When am I going to meet you for realz? Retreat?

      Like

  9. Great reminder to write with joy in your heart because lately, I’ve been writing while shrouded in doubt and, yes, even self-loathing sometimes. The publishing industry will readily crush you like a hapless bug as soon as you poke your little head (or manuscript) out of your hiding spot and squish the joy out of you. I need to bring the same love and joie de vivre as I create art with back into my writing. :}

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jennifer DuBose

    Beautiful, brave, and bang-on, just like you and your writing! Many thanks for sharing this with all of us, dear friend! Miss you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Chris,
    This is such a moving post. I, too, thank you for your honesty and bravery. And I thank you for writing this for all of us who experience the highs and lows.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Elly Swartz

    I truly admire your courage and your honesty. Thank you for sharing with us. I wish you more and more joy as you soak up the sun and take care of yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Christine, thank you so much for this post. It resonates with me too. I have SO enjoyed getting to know you both here at Emu’s and in person at retreats, and I look forward to continuing on this writing path with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Hayes

      Thank you so much, Jenn! It’s been so amazing getting to know you. Sharing our debut month was a real highlight for me. Congrats on the news of book 3!! Yay, yay, yay!

      Like

  14. Thanks for sharing this with us, Christine. I’m sorry to hear you were feeling down, but I do so understand–the fear, the doubt, the sadness, the guilt. Hugs, friend. I’m sending you much joy from afar! ❤

    Like

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