After a busy start to the day – getting four kids up and moving on a school day is no easy task – I finally had the chance to sit down and turn my mind and attention to my writing. My friend Jeff and I have started a podcast where we read stand-out blog posts written by other dad bloggers. We were recording an episode soon, and I wasn’t sure which dad blogger I would read. And so, I clicked on link after link to narrow down which piece would be aired. After picking out the post, I thought about my own writing and immediately began to judge and critique myself.
“Everyone is smarter than you.”
“You can’t even get ‘It’s’ and ‘Its’ right sometimes. In fact, you mess up sometime and some time.”
“You’re a writer?”
“You’re the reason real writers make fun of bloggers.”
“Your grammar sucks. Your math sucks. What can you do?”
I have long felt inadequate regarding my intelligence. There are moments when I can come across as smart, but that depends on the topic. There are things that I know quite a bit about, because they interest me. I have read countless books on the Revolutionary War and Colonial American was one of the few courses in college I passed with flying colors. Politics interests me, so I stay up to date on a wide variety of current events. I’m passionate about equality and try to keep myself informed on gender issues. I can talk at length about film history and acting techniques.
But, a comma is placed where a semicolon should be and a title isn’t highlighted. Misspellings occur. To catch mistakes, I need to reread something repeatedly. Even then, they go by unnoticed. And I ask myself, “as a writer that can’t write properly, how can you expect to be taken seriously?”
My shoulders slump and my head bows before my computer screen. I’m a story-teller. That’s what I do. But how can I deliver a written story with improperly placed subject-verb agreements and dangling modifiers? My grammar check tells me I shouldn’t write in past-tense and to use adverbs “sparingly,” but I find it difficult to change the words. And so, I sit in front of a good story and wonder if it will be taken to heart or scoffed at for having grammatical errors. Too often, I don’t hit publish.
And so I’m staring at a list of posts that I would like to write, sponsored content that’s coming close to its due date, a play that needs finishing, query letters, and a children’s book that I badly want in the market.
Forrest Gump once looked down at Jenny from the top of the stairs and said, “I’m not a smart man, but I do know what love is.” Hovering over my computer, Forrest’s words are altered as they weave through my brain, “I’m not a smart man, but I do know what a good story is.”
There have been many moments in my life where I have felt inadequate intellectually. Not only was I a less than stellar student who constantly abused the English language, I have also struggled with speech impediments. At an early age, I had a slight stutter. And moving from from Cleveland to Oklahoma and then back again gave me a “unique” accent that only compounded the stutter.
As I sit here trying to put out my best work to a world anxiously awaiting to point out my flaws, I’m incapacitated by my past and the verbal abuse of being called “stupid” and “dumb.”
At 43, it is becoming less and less likely that I’ll write the great American novel. In fact, it is unlikely that I’ll even write the great American blog post. But, I will continue to try at both. As I continue to second guess the grammatical context of each word I write, there is a sense of accomplishment that I wrote anything at all. With years of doubt – from inside and out – to overcome, being good at anything seems unachievable.
I’m kind of big on hope.
In those moments of doubt and struggle, my dreams dilute the poisoned glass of inferiority and bring about a healthy dose of hope.
Am I smart? Probably not.
Do I care? Yes.
Will it get me down? On occasion.
Is it going to stop me from telling stories? I hope not.