Sunday, July 31, 2016

Please, Okay?

I think I made a mistake when I admitted on my blog that I was writing a novel.

The more I think about it, the more I think: yes. That was absolutely a big, dumb mistake.

Who knew that writing a novel would feel like such a private, personal thing? I did not. I wrote about it, initially, because I didn't realize how much I would dislike talking about it to real people. I talked about it to long-distance friends and online people quite a bit, and I really liked that, so maybe I thought talking about it to real, in-person people would feel the same. Maybe I also sort of forgot that people I know actually read my blog - there was a time when the only people who read here were Crystal Kimber and a handful of women from Korea and Scotland.

I still remember the day my dad called after coming across this post somehow, like, "Hi, Suzy. Your mom and I aren't so sure you should be wandering into back alleys on the advice of homemade posters promising you the best time of your life." I should've learned my lesson back then. Not about back alleys - though that is, also, for sure a valuable life lesson that my dad was right about - but about writing things online without expecting that real-life people will read them and then want to discuss them with you.

Because it's really, really nice of people to read here and it's super wonderful of them to take an interest in what I'm doing and ask me questions about it. I'm for sure not mad about it - it would be quite silly of me to put stuff out there and then be mad at people for wanting to talk about it with me.

But if you've ever asked me in real life, "Hey, how's that novel going?" you might have noticed my lips curl back and my eyes cross and my gut suck right in to my spine as I stammer:

"It, uh, it uh, it's...just not. I don't know. I'm busy doing other things. I don't want to talk about it."

And while I'm talking, I'm thinking, This is the most embarrassing thing ever. I don't know what I'm saying. I don't know how to talk anymore. Am I saying, 'Blub blub blub blub?' Like, I can't even admit that I'm working on it. It's so ridiculous. It feels exactly like someone is asking me if I still like to play with Barbies and I'm admitting that, yes, I do like to play with Barbies still and that is what I do with all of my free time lately. Just playing Barbies all day every day. Giving them names and dressing them up and making them marry Ken over and over and over again. Why did I admit to this ON THE INTERNET?

Let's pretend in real life that this whole thing doesn't exist. Please, okay? I am seriously considering publishing it under a pseudonym and never admitting to anyone I know in real life that I did it. It might seem counter-intuitive to bring it up again on here just to say to forget about it, but every time someone asks me The Question in real life I pretty much swallow my nose and turn into a blubbering idiot, so there's zero chance of me tactfully saying, "You know what? I'd prefer not to talk about that at this time - I actually shouldn't have brought it up in the first place."

I would love to know if I am the only person who feels this way. Like, if I'm passionate about something, is it completely weird to also not want to talk about it ever at all? It it weird to want to keep that thing in a completely separate little personality box that I only show to a couple of people and keep away from pretty much everyone else? Blub blub blub blub?



    I think it's normal to feel private about writing. Even if we claim we're writing autobiography, it's a very personal thing, working through our thoughts and putting them onto a page; it's a very vulnerable thing, too, because you care so much about your writing and don't want it to be judged poorly so you keep it hidden away and protected. Totally normal.

    1. I was, in fact, totally thinking of you when I wrote that, so. Yep.
      And yeah - it's weird. Like, I HAVE A BLOG. I'm clearly not shy about sharing my writing (although there was a time when I was excruciatingly so). But for some reason this novel thing freaks me out. You'd think fiction would be easier to admit to than nonfiction, but it's not for me.

  2. Oh man, I go through times when I don't even want to show new poems to my husband. And I know loads of people who write amazing stuff who won't even send it out for publication. Writing is like tearing out your still-beating heart and then handing it over to a stranger who's holding a hammer. It's also totally normal to take a break from your writing (or submitting, or whatever). Sometimes you need to just let it hang out in your back pocket for a while, and not talk about it.

    1. I'm so glad you said that thing about not wanting to show your writing to your husband. Phew.
      Barclay's always like, "Can I read what you're working on?" and I'm like, "Not until it's FINISHED. Like, maybe not even until it's PUBLISHED." And of course I'll let him read it before that but yikes. It's terrifying.

  3. Suzy, you are not alone.

    At one time in my life I went back to school to get another degree, a career change so to speak. When the vagaries of life forced me to stop my pursuit, the head of the program countered by saying they would work with me so I could continue; she didn't want me to have wasted all I had put into the program. While I was grateful for her support, I was content with my decision to leave even though I enjoyed the program. My response to her? My time there wasn't wasted; learning for the sheer joy of gaining knowledge is not squandered time in my eyes. Would I have thought this as a youngster? Probably not, but personal growth occurred in the intervening years.

    As a result of your wonderful blog, you are probably well-aware of personal growth; how wonderful and pain-filled, exciting and frightening it can be. We like to think our words stand by themselves, but they are enmeshed with who we are inside - the good and the bad. Releasing them into the world opens us to scrutiny, and scrutiny can hurt. Assuming benign intent is difficult when the subject is close to our heart, but more often than not, benign intent is exactly where people are coming from.

    Having said all that, I totally get it. I worked on a novel for many months before I even told my husband what I was doing, and that was in response to his frustration about a house that was falling into disarray around us. Once I told him, I had to respond to a slew of questions about wanting to read what I'd written, how it was going, when it was going to be finished. I began wishing I'd never said a word. I've gotten beyond that now. I'm still writing, mostly because I have all these thoughts tumbling about my head that want to escape, and when asked about it, I smile and say (as Arthur Glasgow once said), "You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not smashing it." By the time the puzzled look leaves their face, I've moved on - conversationally, physically, metaphorically. I look forward to holding your words in my hand!

    1. I love absolutely everything about this comment. I want to read YOUR book. I want to ask what it's about and how it's coming and all that - such easy questions to ask, aren't they? Terrible questions to be on the receiving end of. Weird.
      I'm going to keep your Glasgow quote ready for the next time this conversation comes up. What an amazing response.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Sue!


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