I haven’t been writing a whole lot in the new year. It hurts me to admit because it’s kind of like dying. But end of last year into this one, I started writing things I was embarrassed to be writing. Not like “going there”, really opening up or pushing myself, nothing pornographic or illicit (sorry to disappoint some).
I’ve been writing about subjects that embarrass me. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been writing about them, spending my precious time on drivel, stuff I’m so embarrassed probably will never publish, which will be really funny if they’re the ones that launch me or hit my fiction home run. I’m embarrassed because I feel I should be writing about more important topics like, oh I don’t know, human rights, identities, world peace.
Samantha Bennett said something a while ago that resonated with me. To paraphrase, she said when she published, it was no surprise to the people around her, her friends and family. They were like, “Of course you published; you’re the writer. we’re just surprised it took you this long.” My friends and family have known for a long time I’m a writer. I write. So I’m adding pressure to myself as I’m writing thinking, “You’re 27, about to turn 28, really committing to your dream of publishing and this is what we’ve got? This is going to be your debut novel, this is going to the breakout novel?” I see friends and family picking it up and reading it (partially out of obligation, partially because when I publish it’s going to be everyone’s holiday gift, birthday gift, bridal and baby shower gift–it’s a game of numbers) I see me getting the pity reads or “Cora finally published! This is going to be great,” and them setting off and being like, “What?” I see faces falling, freezing, melting like snow thrown against a wall. “This is what she thinks about in her spare time? Cora? Little Cora?”
Just putting together the logline, my stomach heaves. Good-ness girl! Can you believe you just said that? Yes, I can because I’ve met me.
I read amazing writers. I read writers that are discussed in college and teach at colleges. Ones I read and got a visceral reaction, a “Wow, I wish I wrote that” or “That was so good. I’ve been looking for that and this feeling.” Books that have changed laws, lives, and worlds. And I’m spinning cotton candy with my pen. I literally feel like a closeted teeny bopper, with sweaty clenched fists, wide- eyed gushing about her latest obsession. I read Atwood, Zadie Smith, Julian Barnes and this is what I got?
I am being hard on myself and comparing myself to others. It’s my inner mean girl flaring up to protect me. Part of this post is to get the fear out in the open so I can see it. I like the idea of being transparent with people, especially since I have a challenge of doing that face to face. I want other writers and other people to know fear revs up in all of us. Creating can be hard. I some times try to comfort myself by remembering JK Rowling at one point had to look people in the eye and say, “I’m writing about a teenage wizard who goes to wizard school.”That’s cool, but I still imagine she got some wide eyes and slow nods.
Part of any challenge is having faith in yourself and your abilities. Pure trust and faith you can pull this off, you can do it, and you’re not crazy. It’s scary but you’ll be that much better for doing it. I’ve grown because it no longer feels like believing in Santa… Someone posted a quote yesterday that writers have an important job; they allow people to dream. So maybe that’s what I’m doing–dreaming so I can allow someone else to dream.
Just like you can’t help who you fall in love with, just like you can’t choose your family, sometimes you really can’t help what you write. sometimes you just have to get it out. Maybe you’re not crazy. Maybe it’s what someone else has always wanted to read.