Moms are awesome
My mom taught me how to do a few things. She taught me how to cook (and now I think perhaps the student has surpassed the master), she tried to teach me penmanship, because she has such nice handwriting and mine is woefully hieroglyphic, (my handwriting is nearly identical to my father’s…a Harlow curse) and she taught me how to make yarn dolls but the most important thing she ever taught me was how to quiet the voice in my head that says “I can’t.”
My mom always encouraged me and seemed to really believe that I could do anything I was willing to work at. I’m not saying I’m thankful to my mom because she was a good cheerleader (although she was), my mom actually gave me a gift that was much more profound. After so many years of hearing that I could do it from the outside, I began to internalize it. She gave me the tools to combat my own self doubt. Self-doubt is a healthy feeling; it’s harmful to have an unrealistic assessment of your abilities and humility is important, but I’ve seen it undermine really talented people.
It’s so easy to psych yourself out, before you even attempt it, just having that extra bit of confidence can give you a big advantage. Lots of people, with amazing potential, psych themselves out something before they attempt something. Woody Allen said “90% of life is just showing up.” Thanks to my mom, I’m never afraid to “show up” even if I don’t expect to do well. When I tried out for Jeopardy! it was more or less a lark (I had to miss a day of work, so I wasn’t totally casual about it either) and I was amazed when they called to me be a contestant. I’m pretty good at Jeopardy! but I can virtually guarantee there people who are way better at it than me who are too intimidated to try out.
My mom has been my most important support in my writing career. Rejection is so common in the writing world, it’s so easy to become beaten down and to question your abilities. In some ways, you have do battle in your psyche with a rejection letter…one part of you says “you have it there on paper, your writing is not good enough.” I’m sure there are many talented to writers who just accept that as reality. Somehow, to keep going, you have to answer your own brain with defiance, you have to find some part of you that’s willing to answer back: the rejector is wrong! They’re misguided! They’re Philistines! Sometimes that little part of my brain, that my mom found and nurtured in me when I was young even answers back, “Maybe you’re a better writer than they are.” Whether it’s true or not, that little voice, so pushy and strident, so different from me, keeps me writing.
Just like my mom does in real life. My mom is my best editor, my loudest cheerleader and anyone who’s ever written me a rejection letter should watch out, ‘cause she might be coming for you. On this Mother’s Day (I’m a bit late, just like my mom often is), I have to thank my mom for her continuous support and the gift she gave me that no amount of Mother’s Day flowers or cards is ever going to repay.