It’s been almost a decade since I became a mom. I picked Chicago as the birthplace of my first-born, Noah. It was my first gift to him. The city is packed with years of memories and firsts for me. Now he can say the same.

Though we’ve since shifted our home to the suburbs, we manage regular city trips. I want both of my children to be aware of urban life, of the diversity and possibilities it holds. We went last weekend, searching out visible hints of Christmas.

We found one, outside the old Tribune Tower.

It’s not the city’s official tree, but it is my favorite.

We passed Prentice Women’s Hospital, where Noah was born. I thought a picture would be a good idea. He grumbled, but in the end, he obliged me.

“Chicago is a great place, Mom. I’m glad I was born here,” he said. He continues to embrace that first gift. Shared legacy. What more could a mom want?

Soon Chicago will be a great place glowing with the promise of all things new. As Norman Vincent Peale said,

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

Which Way, Writer?

Time in any big city has always brought me clarity and focus. Peale’s words make me consider how I might make the world softer and more beautiful. The most obvious way is through my writing.

For most of my life, I’ve written non-fiction. I believe my work as a journalist and author has softened life for some, perhaps added depth of meaning and understanding.

I was reminded of that recently, at a local authors’ day at my public library. The author seated next to me said she had visited my blog, and offered condolences on my brother, who ended his life five years ago. I’ve written about what the loss has meant to my family, and how suicide affects survivors. The author had sent my articles to a friend who battles severe depression, and they encouraged her. This, in turn, encouraged me. People I won’t ever meet are benefiting from my work.

Still, an an anticlimactic wave has washed over me since my book published last year. It’s at least half to do with the many roles we authors are expected to play: speakers, promoters, marketing and PR agents; jacks of too many trades unfamiliar to us. It leaves little time to write, and lots of time for feeling scattered and frustrated.

Writing and editing are what I do best. I don’t mind public speaking. But I don’t excel at self-promotion, marketing, or PR.

The other half of my post-publication mire has to do with my desire for greater creative challenges. So I’ve been scratching a new surface: fiction.

Though I’m keen to beat a new path, I struggle with imposter syndrome. It’s not unique to writers. If you’re human and you work, you’ve faced this age-old plague that riddles us with self-doubt. We worry that our work isn’t good enough. Sooner or later, those on the receiving end of our work will catch on, and we’ll be finished.

Author and speaker Joanna Penn offers guidance on how writers can handle imposter syndrome and self-doubt. She points to this quote, from poet Charles Bukowski:

Bad writers tend to have self-confidence, while the good ones tend to have self-doubt.

Maybe self-doubt isn’t all bad. If I see it as a thorn in my side that keeps me honest, keeps me chasing the purpose God has for me here on earth—then it looks more like a blessing.

So I’ll move ahead with enough self-doubt to keep me honest, and determined. This determination will, after all, be another part of the legacy I extend to my children.

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