My first ‘success’ in writing came in year 12 English when I submitted a short story and received an A+. I was shocked and embarrassed when the teacher handed it back to me with the red mark at the top right of the page. My older self knows the story was about forgiveness and trying to make sense of the world, but I really didn’t expect anyone else would think much of the story. Even with this small success, it felt excruciating to bare myself to anyone – there’s so much angst at 17.
That year of English study was very good for me in terms of improving my confidence and skill thanks to my teacher. It would be no surprise I followed with some kind of pathway in writing. But I didn’t.
I took a safer pathway, one that I could hide behind but still within the storytelling realm and studied photography. My dream then was to become a National Geographic Magazine journalist with my stories and photographs. Life had other ideas and I’ve now come full circle, back to writing.
Why am I telling you this? Because I know you. I know what it is to bare my soul. It’s taken me 35 years to arrive back to that 17-year-old who shrank from the first positive review of her writing. The fear can be so great that we would rather hide in the shadows and do something else. Fear of discovery, fear of judgement, fear of success even. Because with success, we need to back that up with more. And to back that up, we need to keep opening ourselves up to the world. With this comes the possibility of pain. Pain brought up from revisiting something, pain from admitting something, pain from any negative comments.
This is what I know. We build this up in our heads. We think a spotlight will be on us and we will be interrogated about our thoughts and ideas. In fact, no one cares enough to hold a spotlight on us for too long because there are so many ways for the attention to go elsewhere. So yes, that spotlight may land on you for a moment and then go again, much like a searchlight scouring the marshlands for a fugitive. What will remain is your story, fact or fiction, that you have offered up to the world. A piece of you will have been written into it and with luck a reader, or two or three, will come along and connect with it in some way. They may be entertained, healed or educated, maybe even changed into something better.
The more you do this, the less scary it becomes to bare yourself and in some way you write yourself whole, smoothing over those seared edges, not caring as much about what people think. Your stories matter as much to you as the reader no matter how successful (the definition of success is a whole other blog!) they are after they’ve been written.