Thursday, October 2, 2014

Harvest Moon

 I’m participating in the Writing Contest: Overcoming Writer’s Doubt held by Positive Writer

As I was pondering this contest, I was overwhelmed with the number of things I could say on the subject. A mountain of thoughts surfaced, obscuring clarity.  And so I waited until some clear shape rose above the peaks. Finally the full moon emerged.

Like the moon, I went through at least four phases as a writer, each one with elements of doubt.

The New Moon

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade, when I copied an entire book verbatim, turned it in to my teacher and said, “Look what I wrote!” Her response: “You wrote this?”

And I was like, can’t you tell that’s my handwriting? You ought to recognize it by now as many times as you’ve made me write, “I must not talk in school.”

Back then I yearned to say something, but didn’t have anything of my own to say. I had little or no light to reflect, like the new moon.

The Waxing Moon

But over time more light emerges.  The lunar sliver begins to reveal itself.  This is the phase where I began to develop my own thoughts little by little, and so I spent a good bit of time licking stamps and sending my work out into the universe.  With every rejection, doubt increased. But with every acceptance, doubt diminished.   

One day I received an invitation to speak at an upcoming conference called Women Writers: Making the Difference, sponsored by the NC Literary and Historical Association.  I was a sliver of crescent among a sky of full moons shining in all their glory.

 Maya Angelou, keynoter, owned the auditorium when she stood to speak.  A hush fell over the place as she captured us with her story. She was a bright harvest moon.

It was a defining moment for me, seeing that glow and recognizing something of myself in her.  Realizing that we writers, if true to our call, will overcome our doubts and surmount our obstacles, somehow or another.

First Quarter

During first quarter, ½ of the moon is visible for half the evening, then goes down, leaving the sky dark.

After my literary writing stint, I teamed up with my musician husband and went into the songwriting business. We wrote, recorded, hit the road, and performed our music wherever doors were open.

One September we were called to minister at Aqueduct Conference Center with the Ragamuffin himself, Brennan Manning. That’s when I heard the clear call to go within and find what compelled me to write. 

“Then one day, just like that” (to quote Forest Gump), I told our agent I needed a break.  I needed space. I needed solitude and quiet. That’s when he and his wife left the house (almost in a huff), never to return. And my songwriting career came to a grinding halt. Just like that. 

The Waxing Gibbous (contemplative phase)  

I never doubted the call to write. Whoever sits down and writes is a writer, good, bad, or ugly. Poor or rich. Unknown, little known, or well known.  But the writers who truly have something to say are those who have heeded Rilke’s advice:  

  “You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now…There is only one single way. Go into yourself… and see what compels you to write.”

It’s one thing to have something to say. It’s quite another to have to say something. It was in the contemplative phase – which became more than a phase; it became a lifestyle – that I began overcoming writerly doubts in earnest because I was finally asking myself the important questions:

“What is it that you must write? What were you called to write? What were you born to write?”

The Full Moon

Writer’s doubt faded like a pair of old jeans when I stopped comparing myself with writers who’d “made it…”  Because what did true success mean anyway?  I had to redefine what success meant and what it didn’t mean.  It didn’t mean that I should write for the market. It didn’t mean that I should emulate the voices of others who’d made it. It didn’t mean I’d ever make a fortune.  

What it did mean is that I told my particular truth, just as those I admired most had done.  And though I never compared myself with Maya Angelou or Brennan Manning or Frank McCourt, I came to realize from reading their words that we’ve all stumbled in the dark and fallen flat on our faces.

They were successful only because their themes were universal, even if their stories were unique. They never told me the moon was shining, but I could clearly see “the glint of light on broken glass” - in the context of broken vessels.      
We’re all familiar with pain and rejection, disappointment and despair, and sometimes abject poverty.  We’ve all suffered and bled and died a thousand little deaths. And lived to tell about it.  So that others could feel and share in our grief and joy, could laugh and cry with us and feel less alone in this world.   

What about you? Who helped you overcome your writer doubts?  


  1. First of all, Debra, I have to tell you that I'm overwhelmed with joy to see you back here blogging! Secondly, you have described all the stages writers go through in learning to trust their gift, not give into rejection, and not to compare their work with others.
    Each of us has a unique voice. That's the one in which God desires us to speak. We cannot contrive or pretend; we must lay it all out there as we are, trusting Him to guide us. The Lord was/is the One who helped me overcome all my writer doubts, and the One who has kept me going even when prospects looked bleak and unpromising.
    I believe, dear friend, that when you have a passion for something, as you and I share for writing, God will not allow us to let go of it. If we do, something will inevitably happen to draw us back and pull us forward. And, we'll know His hand is in it all
    Love and blessings, Debra!

    1. Martha, you’re an angel, plain and simple. I know you’ve stuck with the writing process for years. And look where you are now: on your second series! By the way, how’s that going?

      Hey, I thought you were going to pick up the phone and touch base again at the end of September. Maybe your writing was on a roll... at any rate, we need to seriously catch up, don’t we?

      Love and blessings to you, dear friend. <3

  2. I don't know that I have successfully over come all of my doubts. I had a rejection last week from an agent and spiraled. I licked my wounds, regrouped, and kept at my WIP. I know that I am a good writer. I also know I learn more and gain strength everyday that I pound out a page. I also know the market is upside down and to stand out I have to write a cut about the rest to get noticed. I guess to answer your question, I help myself get out of the dark doubt cave we writers tend to crawl into. As ever Debra, your words always inspire.

    1. Brenda, who HASN’T overcome all their doubts? About that rejection… what does that agent know? Damn right you’re a good writer! Now that you’ve licked your wounds, keep your chin up and keep that WIP moving along. You’ll get noticed; trust me on this. The market probably IS upside down. Although I wouldn’t know because I try not to go there – well, not yet anyway. I’m on the last chapter of the memoir, finally. Now I just have to finish it, and when I do I’ll look outward a bit. Then will probably crawl right back in my shell and write the next thing, which I’ve already begun. Two WIP might take awhile. Meanwhile, let’s stay in touch and keep each other encouraged! <3

  3. Hi Debra. Thanks for this wonderful post. You don't know me but with it I have felt a special connection to you. I am also participating in this contest and wish you luck. (here's the link to mine if your intersted

    1. Miriam, what a touching story! How sad to hear about the bullying in sixth grade and beyond. It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss saying, “Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?” But you overcame, and that’s the main thing. I feel a special connection with you too, and hope to stay in touch.
      My Twitter handle is: @elramey
      FB link:

  4. I have a serious affinity for a moon that is but a sliver turned sideways. When I was a youngster, my grandfather would show it to me, and say, "Look at the moon, barely holding water..."

    I only write for my own amusement, and that of my friends. I used to write mostly stories, but over the years have gravitated more toward poetry. Sometimes, I even read them on a radio program, which can be an adventure all unto itself.

    I really enjoyed your post. Your passion for all things la luna is impressive. Thank you, Myke

    1. Hi Michael, your grandfather sounds like a poet too: “Look at the moon, barely holding water…” Write a poem about that!

      All the best with your poetry and radio readings. All the best with everything. Did you enter the contest?

  5. I love the contemplative spirit in this post, Debra. And thanks for reaching out on Twitter. Hope to get to know you better.

  6. Thank you Shirley. Bless you!

  7. Hi I just loved your expressions and the picture is so captivating, you are a passionate writer and I can feel that as I read your post, I never thought of writing, but always wanted to help youngsters, I did not know how... my life situations and experiences an my strong desire to reach out has led me to work in a counselling centre to reach out to youngsters.. while I am happy to do meaningful work, I developed a desire to share my experiences and was inspired by my friend corinne.. so now I started to blog and in the process of learning express my gratitude and share my learnings, thank you for sharing, your writing is very motivating and it touches the heart

    1. So it sounds like you are reaching out and helping others, both with counseling and with your writing/blogging. Keep it up. Corinne is an inspiration to many.

  8. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post.

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