I have wanted to be many things in my life. A songstress, a teacher, a psychologist, a life coach, a surgeon, an anthropologist, a writer (published and making more money than Nora Roberts. Dream big, right?), a trainer, a photographer, an artist. I became a few of these and other things along the way. Things I fell into rather than made conscious career choices regarding. I rather let life happen to me. And fear. This post is as much about fear as it is art.
When I was a young girl I had a fascination with photography. I watched my dad lug around his huge ass camera and flash set up and saw his face as he framed those perfect-to-him shots. He was rather good. This was long before digital photography and photoshop and I listened to him talk about shutter speed and f-stops and many other things that my younger mind didn’t completely take in. But I knew, I knew in my bones I wanted to be a photographer. So he gave me an old point and shoot and let me go at it. And many rolls of film later I realized I needed to learn more about what made a good shot and how to actually frame up a picture. And maybe how to process my own film. Which would take money we didn’t have. So I set my inner photographer aside until I was older and had money.
I did the same thing with other forms of artistic expression. There was only so far I could go on my own with how to books, and later the internet. I’m an experiential learner who requires a bit of a hands on approach. I’m also afraid of failing. Put these two things together and you get the perfect formula for procrastination.
I do the same thing with writing. I have books in me, but all the online courses on writing and all the how to books don’t make a lick of sense to me when I actually proceed to write. I don’t know if it’s the fear of failing or if it’s how I’m wired or something else. I suspect it’s a combination of things.
For a long time I wrote and never showed a soul. Not even my good friend and amazing author Farrah Rochon. We were both writing and trying to figure out the path to publication and when we both had day jobs we would email all day long about writing. Even have writing challenges. It was the most fun. I miss those days. Farrah went on to become published and is no longer working that day job. My hat is ever off to you, my friend.
Farrah eventually did see a few chapters of a novel I wrote. But never an entire novel. And nothing in recent years. I haven’t had it in me to allow anyone to read what I’ve written. Why? Failure. Perfectionism. Because if it remains unread on my laptop then it’s forever art at it’s purest and not something someone can smash away at with their verbal hammers.
This is not a new sentiment. I was bullied a lot from grade three until I graduated high school for being weird. I was the poor kid in an upwardly mobile neighborhood. I lived in my head and was awkward socially. My favorite pastimes were reading, making shit up, and wandering around in the woods looking for enchantments I knew weren’t real. I knew I was weird. I didn’t need people helpfully pointing that out all the time.
Of all my favorite things, I was acknowledged the most for making shit up. I won awards for my creative writing and just when I started to feel really good about myself and my strangeness, someone would say or do something that sent the very clear message that I was never ever going to fit in. I lived on this crazy precipice of giving all my detractors the finger and giving up pieces of myself in order to fit in. I sometimes wonder if I did give up my love to create and is there a way I can ever get that back.
There is art in me. There are stories. I see them sometimes bubbling below the surface of my consciousness. I have actually completed projects so that should tell me something, right? Yet every time I sit down to write I feel like a fraud and I question my right to create. Who am I to think I could ever tell a story that others would want to read and would actually resonate with them?
Then I remind myself of the single word of advice someone ever gave me: write the story of your heart. Figure the rest out later.
This may not be the best path to a career in commercial fiction, but it is the mantra of my soul when I sit down to write. Someday I’ll be brave enough to share my words with the world. Just not today.