Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Crisis talks

I’m having a crisis of confidence.

There. I’ve named it. Like one of the online articles on having a crisis of confidence says to do.

However, I wouldn’t have looked up ‘crisis of confidence’ if I didn’t know what I’m going through. It’s not writer’s block – I know what I need to do, and I have another story tunnelling its way out of my skull. The article also says the mind doesn’t know what’s really going on, that the body and the heart know. But I feel like I’m the opposite – emotion’s overriding logic to the point where I can’t bring myself to open my WIP.

How has this happened? The Worst School Holidays Yet. Fritzing keyboard. Post-surgery restrictions. A big rejection.

Let me break that down.

The Worst School Holidays Yet

The child has ADHD and ODD – Oppositional Defiance Order – which means he’ll argue against getting what he wants if it’s something we want as well. Can I have some chocolate? Sure. I DON’T WANT CHOCOLATE! So imagine what he’s like when there’s something he doesn’t want to do, like eat breakfast, brush his teeth, go to bed – the truly horrible things parents insist on. On top of this, his ADHD medication’s been losing its effectiveness. We’ve seen this happen over months, repeating a past pattern that’s always ended with his meds being increased, but his paediatrician’s refused to up the dose. Meanwhile, his behaviour at school and at home worsened to the point where his classroom was evacuated due to The Incident. His impulse control was shot, he was constantly injuring himself and us, and he’d deliberately put himself into harmful situations and make himself angry.

This, of course, was all our fault. Make that my fault, as I’m the mother and I already cop all the anger, fear and rejection aimed at his birth and former foster mothers. I got my first ‘you’re not my real mother,’ which didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as the outright lack of respect he was giving me. Despite knowing logically that the trauma he went through when he was younger may not be entirely overcome, my heart tells me I’m failing him, that I’m a screw-up as a mother. First in not being able to have kids, then in not being able to help the one we have.   

The plus side was his paediatrician finally agreed to up the dose and his behaviour’s been calmer in recent days. But this only happened after a major incident at school, after he’s hurt himself, and after the entire family was on the verge of a meltdown. All things his medical treatment is meant to help avoid.

Fritzing keyboard

You have no idea how hard I have to hit the ‘P’ key. And several of the numbers aren’t working. Or punctuation marks. I’m trying to organise repairs, but in the meantime I’m resorting to copying and pasting exclamation marks and other symbols. This is a huge ain in the roverbial and makes the writing rocess roblematic.  

Post-surgery restrictions

The surgery recovery went well, up until it didn’t. For a week I was under threat of rehospitalisation due to a suspected infection. I saw my surgeon daily. I physically felt like crap. Part of me thought if I was readmitted I’d finally get some peace (see The Worst School Holidays Yet). Just as I hit the point where I was able to do more normal stuff, I was back to lying in bed or on the couch doing nothing. My mind was telling me it was all under control, my body was telling me it wasn’t.

The upside is yesterday I was given the all-clear, but still can’t do a stack of normal stuff.

A big rejection

I’m feeling like a failure as a parent, I’m restricted physically, and I haven’t been able to write for two weeks (and I always get edgy when I can’t write) because school holidays are a nightmare.

Then I get a rejection.

I wasn’t confident of getting a non-rejection, but it was one of those one-in-three scenarios that ended up almost as a one-in-two and I had a decent chance.

The rejection slammed me harder than I thought it would. While I was thrilled for those who got the nod, I was also gutted. Several days later I’m still questioning everything about this manuscript and my writing abilities. Logic tells me the fact I got to the one-in-twoish stage proves I can write, but my heart’s questioning the changes I made to the MS. My body’s betraying me at unexpected moments. My fingers can’t move the mouse to open my WIP. Did my efforts to improve it make it worse somehow? Am I a shit writer as well as a shit parent, shit healer and shit at life in general? 

Normally I’d shake it off with some self-care – a walk or potter around in the garden, but on top of my physical restrictions, the weather’s been horrendous. There are currently 10 flood and severe weather warnings for my district. As I write, it’s hailing. Things are flying past my window – cushions, random pieces of cardboard, Dorothy’s house.

This is what my mind’s doing: if I hadn’t had the surgery would the submission have been better? Doubtful. The bulk of it was done pre-surgery, and I didn’t make the final changes until I was no longer hepped up on goofballs. Has my fritzing keyboard caused a stack of typos I’ve missed? Again, doubtful. The submission was proofed repeatedly. My mind’s telling me to suck it up, get on with the job. I know I’ll get past this feeling, that one morning I’ll wake up when it’s still dark, make a coffee, tiptoe past the child’s room to the study and work without questioning myself. I know, because that’s what’s always happened in the past.

But after two weeks of school holidays and an unexpectedly gut-wrenching rejection, my heart’s left the building, flown off with the wind. And it’s hard to write without heart.


  1. Alex, I don't think it's possible you could have written something as powerful as this if your heart had left the building. Thanks for writing such a moving, sincere piece. I really enjoyed it. And also, you're definitely not a screw-up as a mother. I've only heard you talk about your son for about five minutes, and I can't even really remember exactly what you said, but I remember the love that was in every word. He's one lucky little boy to have you for a mum. Rejections hurt. They just do. Hang in there x

    1. Thank you, Katrina. I'm feeling a little better after writing that post, and your comment's helped a lot. X

  2. Hey Alex, I'm so sorry to hear about all the crap that's been going down - sometimes things seem to domino, yes? I really get your rejection, mine with Penguin was similar. You think they're actually looking at your work seriously and then you get that rejection and you have to wonder, were they just humouring me all along or did they seriously consider and if they did seriously consider why don't they give me a reason! It can do your head in...but as everyone else has said, hang in there - as one who has experienced it I know that those magic emails can drop into your inbox, it's just a matter of keeping on sending stuff out and keeping the joy in the writing :) And just on the being shit thing...don't underestimate how much your can-do attitude pumps through that little Geelong writer's group (sorry, I know I haven't attended all that much) but encouraging others is a valuable thing in itself and I'm sure has some sort of cosmic brownie points in terms of the acceptance that is wending it's way through the universe. x

  3. Alex, this beautiful piece of writing is just another testament to what a good writer you are. You just have the post incident/school holidays/surgery/ rejection blues. It will pass. Rejections are shit and this one was extra shit as you wanted it so much.