Self-doubt fills the creative world. We craft something and are proud of it. A few minutes later, we look at our work, hate it, and throw it in the garbage where it belongs. Designers do this. Editors do this. I do this. It happens while penning these posts. When I first decided to rewrite this, I said to myself, you’ve already done four drafts. Don’t spend time editing. Just get it onto paper and publish it. Fed myself a line of crap there. I spend hours a week drafting, editing, fine tuning these. My heart races as I hit publish every Sunday at 8 a.m.. This fear goes back to the beginning.
At the time, Norman sparked my career. He believed in me for some reason, seemingly more than just because I carried his grocery bag. But Brittany supported me between breakfasts. Morning after morning, night after night, she boosted my morale. She swatted away the doubt circling my head.
I’ve shared a bit about my process. Norman called me an old-souled writer. Over the years I’ve come to use these computer things a bit more, but I still wrote almost everything in notebooks first. I jotted down these posts on paper. I wrote each of my short stories with pen before moving them to digital. For my screenplays, I wrote the scripts on paper and I wrote each scene on index cards. I hung the three-by-fives on cork board and hung the boards on my walls. Once my first drafts were digital, I printed them out and rewrote the second drafts in more notebooks. I have stacks of notebooks and index cards.
So there I sat in my room, surrounded by yellow legal pads and index cards, trying to figure out what the hell I was going to hand over to Norman. Fixing a resume proved difficult enough, now I had to share something more personal. I had to turn in my work. Brittany stood behind me, beside me, in front of me, ready to catch my fall and push me back up. Finally, time won. A week had passed and I had to send Norman my samples. I did. The next morning, I met him for Breakfast at The Cottage.
We sat at our table, drank our coffee, and ate our eggs, staring out the window. I found myself mimicking the Norman pause. Despite the absolute terror of submitting scripts to him, these breakfasts felt like a reprieve from fourteen hour work days.
“You boys are spending an awful lot of time here,” said the woman. “You plotting something?”
“I’m always plotting something,” said Norman.
“I know you are. Well I don’t mind much. You’re keeping us in business this early in the season.”
“Well, here’s to us then,” said Norman raising his mug. I raised my coffee.
“You’re in on this, too?”
“Sure he is,” said Norman. “He’s why we’re here. Getting him a job.”
“Oh well good luck to you, then. Not sure what this senile guy told you, but good luck anyway.”
“Oh come off it,” said Norman. “Saw you sent the scripts. Good work.” He turned and leaned toward me, hunched over at the shoulders.
“Was it?” I really didn’t believe him.
“I don’t know yet. I didn’t read them.”
“So how do you know it’s good work?”
“You met the deadline. That’s your first task. Meet your deadline. Your boss needs three scripts by Wednesday, get those damn scripts done and hand them in.”
“What if they suck?” I asked.
“Remember that thick skin. They may suck. But they may be fine. First things first. Get them done and in. So like I said, nice work.”
“I almost didn’t do them,” I said. “Brittany kept me going.”
Norman smiled and drank a sip of coffee, leaning back into his chair. “Self-doubt. Keep going.”
“What if they suck? What if, after us putting in so much effort writing and editing, your friend decides they suck? Then I’ll have wasted both of your time,” I said.
“So they suck and you tell me not to send them out. Know what I’m going to do?”
He laughed. “Send them anyway.”
“You’d send them behind my back?”
“That doesn’t seem right.”
“You’re good. I don’t have to read your work. Not yet. You’ve got a good mind. More importantly, you can talk.”
Interrupting the story here. Norman was right on the mark. My family and friends have a running joke that I can sit in an Uber and in fifteen minutes know my driver’s life story and be invited to his son’s wedding. They laugh at me and I defend myself. But it’s true. I talk to everyone. Interruption over.
“So you’re completely doubting yourself and tell me not to send them, and I say okay. What happens to your doubt?” asked Norman.
“It goes away.”
“Then, without you knowing, I send them anyway. He reads them and likes them and asks to talk with you. Does it matter?”
“No, but you get the excitement of getting a call-back. He reads them and doesn’t like them, but you don’t know it. Does it matter?”
“So there it is. I’m sending them.”
“You have a way of setting up a situation.”
“I was a PR guy.”
“I told Brittany that I didn’t want to send them.”
“And what did she say.”
I looked at my watch to shift the conversation. Almost time to go to work. Run out the clock. “I think she’s embarrassed that I work at a marina.
“That’s rubbish,” said Norman. “I only know her from what you’ve told me. And that is rubbish.”
“You’re direct today,” I said.
“Thicken that skin, Matt.”
Out on the dock, a large black-hulled fishing boat pulled in. Two men jumped off the boat’s gunnel and tied line around pilons. Seagulls swarmed.
Norman pointed to fisherman. “You think they’re embarrassed?”
“They take pride in what they do. What exactly did she say?”
“That I should finish editing the scripts and get them to you. She knew I’d regret not trying.”
“Take your shot, Matt. She’s not embarrassed at all. She puts drive in you and knows what you really want. She wants you to take your shot.”
“I know, I know. But again, what if I fail? What if I wind up at the marina for a long time?”
“Then take pride in your work at the marina. You enjoy it. And I’ll meet you here as much as you want to work on your writing. Writing is like anything else – you have to work at it. So if my friend reads your samples and says your craft needs work, you work on it. In the end, you want to love what you do and do what you love. If you run away because you’re afraid of rejection, you may love what you do but you may have missed the chance to do what you love. Finish life with as few what-ifs as possible.”
The fisherman walked through the front door and sat at the countertop. “Morning, boys,” said the woman. “How was your run?”
“Good, Ma’am. Great. Was a beautiful trip,” said one of the young fisherman. He pulled off his orange, rubber jacket and lay it over a stool.
“I have to go,” I said. “Thank you.”
“Thank you,” said Norman. “I’ll read them today and we should meet again tomorrow to go through my notes. Sound good?”
“Sounds great. See you tomorrow. Same time.” As I drove from The Cottage to the marina I thought hard about his words. He was right. I did enjoy working with the boats, using my hands, laboring. But I wanted to write.
Brittany and Norman knew it. They pushed me to do what I loved.
And so it’s fitting and completely unplanned that this chapter lands on 26 July 2020 – our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Baber. Thanks for believing in me and for knowing when to knock the self-doubt out of my head.