I recently had the great honor of being published on the Tin House blog for a piece I wrote about American Indian authors people must read. I think of it as “the post that almost never was,” due entirely to the doubt and negativity that clouded my head during the writing process.

I knew Tin House was accepting submissions for particular categories, and I wrote this piece specifically for Tin House’s Correspondent’s Course category.  It felt risky, spending what little writing time I had on a piece for only one market, because my main goal is finishing my novel-in-progress, and side projects that don’t get published can sometimes feel like wasted time.

As I wrote the piece, that little voice repeated over and over all the messages that can stop a writer from trying:

They will never accept it.  You’re wasting your time.

You’re a fiction writer.  What do you know about nonfiction?

You’re writing this for nothing.  This is time that would be better spent on your novel.

Even more devastating was the doubt surrounding this particular piece, having to do with my identity issues:

You have blonde hair and blue eyes and light skin.  You have to tell people you are Indian, otherwise they don’t know. Who are you to write this piece on Native authors? 

That was the worst of all.

I can’t name what it was that made me sit at the computer and finish the post.  Maybe I’m stubborn. Maybe I love the books mentioned in the article so much that I really wanted others to know about them, too.  Maybe, after having four kids, I’ve grown skilled at ignoring people.  Whatever the reason, I gave the voices my middle finger and finished the piece, submitted it, and sat back down to my novel.

And then I watched the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson told of how he pumped his team up by sharing with them what his dad had said to him when he doubted himself: “Why not you?”

He was only 5’11 — short by NFL standards — but why NOT him to play football?  Why NOT him to play in the NFL?  Similarly, why NOT the Seattle Seahawks to win this year’s Super Bowl?

I repeated his words over and over, and then applied them to my writing.  Why NOT me to write that article?  I don’t need nonfiction credentials.  If Tin House had rejected it, maybe there would be another publication home for the piece.  (And perhaps time spent writing is never wasted time, regardless of publication.) And to the larger issue: I know who I am and ultimately it doesn’t matter if people get it that Indians come in different colors.

Maybe the people who get what they want are the people who try – the people who show up and put in the work, tuning out any negative voices that would hold them back – and instead ask themselves “Why NOT me?”

 

 

 

 

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