What is it that causes a total loss of confidence?
I don't know, I only know that on the day I drew this now aged sketch, I experienced a loss that I have never regained--the confidence that I can stay afloat when out of my depth in water.
I was fifteen, at a lake somewhere close to Rotterdam, in Holland, withTante Hannelore and the daughter of a friend of hers.
It was an impromptu trip to the lake, and the girl, whose name was Ria and who was a couple of years older than me, had loaned me one of her bathing suits.
Ria was tall, with long tanned limbs and short blond hair. At fifteen, I was only just beginning to emerge from teenage puppy fat and I really would have much preferred to stay at the side of the lake and draw, but I didn't know how to say that without offending them, so I didn't. I sat by the side of the beautiful lake, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back as I sketched the tall poplars reflected in the water; the boats, and the boat houses on the other side of the lake; but eventually at Ria's urging, I put my sketch pad aside and walked out into the water where she was already swimming.
I was a fairly strong swimmer when younger, at least I can remember swimming the length of our local pool in a relay race at school when I was about eleven and having no problem, but, inexplicably, when I found that I couldn't touch the bottom of the lake, I panicked and started to sink. I felt the water closing over my head and realized that no one would know what was happening--they thought, quite rightly, that I could swim! I wonder if I felt so inept and clumsy that day that it affected everything including my ability to swim. Obviously I didn't drown--I made it back to the shore without being dragged out and resuscitated on the shoreline, but ever since that day I have had no desire to go swimming and the few times I have tried, when my children begged me to, I sank like a stone, so powerfully was I convinced that I would!
And that is how I felt at the gala on Wednesday night when the managing director of The Word Guild, Denise Rumble, asked all of the editors and writers in the room to stand up. I sat in a row near the front, with the four friends who had got all dressed up to enjoy the evening with me, beside my granddaughter Tori, who was there because she is a young writer who loves to breath the same air as other writers--and I lost all confidence that I could call myself a writer. I stayed in my seat.
That moment, the decision not to stand with the other writers, was a denial of a part of my self identity, and while I was ashamed that I didn't stand up, I also didn't feel worthy to. I could no more explain it than explain why I sank in the Dutch lake, but the loss of confidence was just as real.
For the last several months I have been extra busy at work and my writing has been less consistent. I suddenly wondered if what I write about had any value--my little stories about Molson and baking pies--and this and that. Was it all just fluff and meaningless?
A small inner voice reminded me that faithful readers do still read and wasn't I insulting them if I thought that? But I squashed that thought and chose instead to believe the other voice that told me I was being completely self indulgent spending family finances to go away to a writers conference the next day. It was as though I had a slow leak and all of my vision and confidence was leaking out.
To be continued!