I’m Afraid to Write
This blog in general doesn’t contain a lot of personal stuff about me. This is one post that is intended to be very personal. I’m warning you now. This is a good time to go back to whatever else you might enjoy as you kill time at work or in line or wherever you like your distractions.
Anyway, like I said, this blog tends not to have much that is very personal. There is some, here and there, mostly when I’m trying to explain why I’m not updating the site, or when I feel like I need to scream into the void. Some things are very, intensely personal, but I put a façade over them and use the voice of the persona I use when I write here. This emotional distance is a reflex, something I’ve always done, a way to keep myself functioning in a world that is often, to me, a swirling maelstrom of chaos that I’m unable to comprehend or understand without a remove and a wall of sardonic cynicism and sarcasm. And passionate feelings about cupcakes and smoke detectors.
So while I’m much better at being emotionally accessible to the people in my personal life nowadays, I’ve kept the sunnier/angrier persona here, for a few reasons. The first is my assumption that if you’re reading this, you don’t want to hear about my personal shit. The blog is mostly light fare intended for a few minutes of vapid entertainment. The second is a fear of rejection and abandonment, which is the thing that I fear the most. Yes, even more than my Halloween decorations.
The third reason is the regret I tend to feel when I make myself emotionally accessible. Not in my true personal life, thank god – as anyone who saw my groom’s speech at my wedding last year can attest, I can happily cry and talk for twenty interminable minutes about my feelings when surrounded by the people I love and trust. It’s being open to the people that don’t know me as well that inspires the feeling of regret. I will likely regret this post.
But I’m going to do it anyway. As a favor to you, I won’t be talking about something important, in the grand scheme of things. In the end, this blog post is about writing. It’s why I’m putting it here, because this is the place where the part of me that wants to be an Author lives, and it’s tied heavily into my attempts at writing again. It might take a little bit, but I swear it’ll come back to writing. Eventually.
There are a bunch of heavy, serious things that have been going on in my life for the past few years, from my first marriage collapse to divorce to depression to meeting my future wife to getting engaged to her cancer diagnosis to moving to Maryland to wedding to chemotherapy to cancer-free to job change to planning for IVF. I’ve mentioned those things briefly from time to time, but not much of it has made it here. Much of it is too raw for me put down on paper just yet, and my wife – a funnier and better writer than me – has provided a lot of beautiful and powerful insight into the things we’ve been going through together on her own site. It you want to know more about those things, go there. She expresses it better than I can.
Over the last few years of these serious heavy things I’ve lost most of my friends, despite what the Facebook numbers might suggest. I’ve managed to keep some, thankfully, despite my self-destructive urge to push people away when I’m down, and over the last couple of years I’ve been able to get some back and found new appreciation for them and the joy they bring to my life. I hope to reconnect with more of them as time goes on.
The funny thing is, I’ve never been happier in my life. I’m almost a different person now, as those who’ve known me for a while can attest. I am at peace with the world. I’m optimistic – well, for me anyway – and hopeful. I take such joy in the things that I wake up to every day. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet new people who have become family to me, who have shown me love and kindness in measures I didn’t know could exist. I feel lucky every day, especially because of the incredible, supportive, brilliant, kind, and loving wife I’ve somehow managed to convince to be with me.
So what does this have to do with writing?
Fine, I’ll get to the point.
It’s been tough during these last few years to write. The emotional roller coaster wasn’t a wellspring of creative output. Over the last year, with encouragement and support and inspiration from my spouse – seriously, she’s amazing, and I can forgive the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl now because I’ve had someone amazing come into my life and shake it up and make me see the world in a whole new way and sometimes fairy tales are real – I’ve written more things I actually like and am happy with than I’ve ever managed. The Brave Girl is something I adore, because it is the most emotionally true thing I’ve ever written and it made my wife happy-cry. I’ve created the cosmology for a fantasy world and written the creation story of a universe I’m eager to explore (and is becoming the world that the Northreach stories take place). The Serpent in the Citadel is by far the least popular thing I’ve ever put on my blog – it’s Mass Effect detective noir fan fiction, after all – but it makes me happy writing it and reading it. Of all the things I’ve ever written, it’s the one that I’m writing for myself. Of course, it’s easy to say that when I’m the only one reading it.
So why am I afraid to write?
My thoughts on this started yesterday after mentioning I was going to try NaNoWriMo again, and ideas for the story I might write. I’ve had fears before about writing, mostly worrying that I didn’t have any stories I wanted to tell. Then, I didn’t have anything I wanted to say. Now, I’m dealing with the opposite. There are stories I want to tell, more stories I’ve ever had in my life, all wanting to get out. It’s a fountain of ideas that suddenly feels limitless. So that fear is gone, but it’s been replaced.
I’m afraid of my ability to write them.
I’m afraid I’m not good enough to do them justice. No, I’m afraid that I’m shit, and the stories will be shit, and they don’t deserve that. I’m afraid of being terrible, unreadable, and no one will have the heart to tell me to just stop. I’m afraid of the big white space of a new Word document. I’m afraid of hitting the Publish button on a new blog post – fuck, a Facebook status – and putting myself out there. It’s that fear of rejection and abandonment I’ve been wrestling with my whole life, waiting like a grinning goddamn boogeyman in a blanket-clutching kid’s cracked-open closet, and just like that kid I can’t take my eyes off the dark space behind the door. Typing these words right here are scary as fuck and telling myself I don’t have to actually publish this post at all is the only way I can put them down because acknowledging the fear makes it real.
There it is.
I guess if this post has a purpose it’s to let this feeling out. I’m tired of carrying it around on the inside. Maybe it’s a way to face the fear, to make it real, because things that are real can be dealt with, and I know now, after the last few years, that I can deal with anything. I once said something that was a joke at the time, but unintentionally turned out to be true. It was a leadership conference, my senior year of high school, as part of the JROTC program. There was maybe fifty of us there, learning lessons about… something. All I remember learning about was that Hitler had uncontrollable flatulence.
I was told that, he wasn’t there and I didn’t experience it first-hand or anything.
Anyway, one of the conference leaders asked us all what kind of animal we’d be and why. There was your usual mix of things, wolves, bears, eagles – lots of bald eagles, it was very patriotic – and those kinds of things. I was trying to come up with something that sounded good, since I was towards the end of the line, and couldn’t, so I decided to make a joke instead and deflect. On my turn, I stood up and said I’d be a cockroach. Everyone laughed, and the leader asked me why. I said, “because they’ll survive anything, even a nuclear war.” I got some more laughs and I happily sat down, glad to get that over with. Now, though, I realize that it’s true. I feel like I can face anything and survive. I’m a cockroach. I’m a goddamn cockroach, and I can survive anything.
Maybe even hitting Publish on this post.