Thursday, November 16, 2017

Defeating Doubt by Dee Dee Chumley

One fall morning in 2011, I was writing at my desk and glanced out the window to see a UPS truck pulling up in front of my house. At the sight of that familiar brown truck, my heart began  to race and my palms grew moist. I knew it was delivering fifty hot-off-the-press copies of my debut novel.

A few months prior, I’d been over-the-moon excited to learn an independent press would publish my book. Editing and developing marketing plans had kept me too busy to consider any downside of the process. But with the arrival of the books, reality—like an early morning alarm—jolted me from my blissful state. That wake-up call told me I’d wandered far afoul of my comfort zone. I’d put myself out there. Regardless of countess edits and re-writes, I’d exposed my shortcomings, inadequacies, and goofs to colleagues and fellow writers and (shudder) heartless reviewers. 

As I went about my routine tasks over the next few days, prayers for inner peace warded off full-blown panic attacks and reminded me that in the grand scheme of things my paltry book was fairly inconsequential. But still, the angst continued. Then one morning, as I was making up my bed and fighting back niggling fears, those prayers also led me to a most unusual source of comfort.

As a former English teacher, I was familiar with Puritan Anne Bradstreet’s poetry and vaguely recalled one that compared her recently published chapbook to a child. What was the title? A quick Google search brought me “The Author to Her Book,” and there, like a kindred spirit was Anne, expressing the doubts, the unease, the qualms she was suffering over the publication of her book. In the poem she bemoans all of her “offspring’s” “blemishes” and “defects.”  She scolds her “ill-formed offering of [her] feeble brain” for resisting repeated efforts to make it presentable. She “blushes” at its “irksome” appearance in print and fears for its acceptance. But Anne doesn’t deny or desert her “rambling brat.” Despite her harsh criticisms, her love for it is evident. She sends it out into the world, tenderly cautioning it to avoid the “critic’s hands.” She admonishes it to keep its father’s identity a secret, but with motherly pride, she acknowledges it as “mine own.”

And so, from the grave and across four centuries, the poet spoke and calmed me. She whispered to my roiling mind I wasn’t the first author—nor would I be the last—to wrestle with insecurities. She revealed that regardless of intelligence or talent or status, every writer takes a risk the minute she allows someone to read her work.

I realized, unlike Anne’s, my own “offspring” probably wouldn't survive for four centuries. But I also acknowledged an affection for my little ragamuffin that had grown from an embryonic idea to a fully formed book. If only a few friends and relatives read it, I was proud that I’d accomplished a personal goal and pushed myself to take a risk. Proud that I had a story to tell and had told it to the best of my ability.  

With my mind more at rest, the words from another woman long buried came to me, encouraging me and buoying my spirits. Long before the movie about her came out, I’d learned of Florence Foster Jenkins’ response to her critics. Borrowing from and slightly amending the words, I took Jenkins’ sentiments as my own, and I encourage all writers to use them as a rallying cry when self-doubts or fears of rejection threaten to steal their joy and passion for writing: Some may say I cannot [write]; but no one can say I didn’t. 

Angry loner  Gracene has just stepped out of the prison gates, and already she's planning another con job: she's moving to Transformation Place.

The apartment complex offers free rent and a ministry for ex-offenders. But there's a catch. The apartments and the program are for Christians, something Gracene knows she can never be. A dark secret has convinced her she is beyond forgiveness.

Faking her faith works for a while. She finds a good job with an understanding boss, and for the first time in her twenty-eight years, she has true friends. Even romance seems a possibility. At long last her life is headed in the right direction. But when a creeper from the past slithers back into her life, can Gracene's pretend faith save her from a U-turn?

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Dee Dee Chumley has received numerous awards for her short stories, essays, and poems. In 2012 her debut novel Beyond the Farthest Star won Best Juvenile Book from the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc., and in 2017 she was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest and published in their anthology of Best Short Stories of 2017. Her most recent work, Some Form of Grace, is available on Amazon. She blogs about focusing on everyday grace at and would love for you to friend her on Facebook or Twitter @dee_chumley. She is a member of OWFI and Oklahoma Christian Fiction Writers.