Thursday, December 06, 2018

Dear Loved Ones IRL

“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." - John Green

I was on a walk with someone the other day and she asked how the book stuff was going and I said it was going well and she said, "I'm so excited to read it!"

And I, immediately flattered and flustered and touched, said, "Yeah!...and then we can both pretend you didn't, right?"

She seemed surprised and asked me to explain myself, and I promptly found that I couldn't. I just did a lot of mumbling about how the whole thing is so fun, and so exciting, yes, it is, totally, and also I just never want to have to discuss it with anyone I know very well in real life. 

This confused things further because, of course, there is this: I have a blog where I write a lot, including about the books, and it is not a private blog. I have an Instagram account where I share, on average, a picture a day, and where I talk about the writing process a lot. And then, you know, I wrote these books and, with great effort and absolutely on purpose, am having them published. Publicly. 

So it's understandably confusing when I say to someone that I want to pretend with close friends and family, offline, that none of this is actually happening. Yes. Confounding.

I have had ten thousand iterations of this conversation in the past year or so, and I've found that I'm not getting any better at explaining myself. In fact, at best I'm confusing everyone, and at worst I'm offending them or maybe even hurting their feelings. The fact that I came here, to my blog, to work out and write out what I can never seem to say in real life almost feels like an explanation in and of itself. But I'll try to elaborate just a touch more. 

Okay.

I'm not even sure where to start. Maybe with this:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself
(I am large, I contain multitudes)
- Walt Whitman

I have always wanted to be an author. I have always loved writing. And I have always been terrified of people reading what I write. I want people to read what I've written, because that's obviously a measure of success as an author, and I want to be published so that lots of people can read what I've written, and I don't want anyone to read what I've written because I'm the one who wrote it. 

When I started this blog, I protected it from everyone I knew in real life—Barclay, my family, my friends, everyone. There was a tiny community of strangers who read my blog, and I read theirs, and it was just a great way to practise writing and to connect with other people who loved writing too. It was a simpler time, when the internet wasn't so searchable, when blogs weren't so discoverable. As people began to find this place, though, I realized I had to make a decision: give up this hobby that I loved and the community I built here, because CRIPPLING EMBARRASSMENT, or keep on going and pretend like I didn't die inside every time someone in real life told me they'd stumbled across my blog or someone had shared it with them. 

This already sounds dumb. Bear with me; these are just my actual feelings. I just actually feel them. 

So the book thing, at first, was much the same as the blog thing. I was going to keep it a secret. I was going to use a pen name and tell NO ONE. My dream has never been fame; my dream has been the finished product: a legit book. Professionally edited and designed and published. 

Barclay said, "There are a few people who would want to know you wrote a book." And then I almost decided not to write a book because, well, he was right. People would be put out if I didn't tell them, and I was not willing to tell them. But then I found that I was so attached to the idea of publishing a book that I also couldn't not do that. I was stuck between something I could not do and something I could not not do and at first I couldn't tell whether it would be harder to do something hard or to not do something wonderful...and somehow, I ended up here.

And this is how it's been for every single step in the process. Weighing the outcome against my fear, briefly considering giving up, and then pushing forward in spite of myself.

My bestest-best friends know that I mostly deliver book news by text message (or not at all) and then get really, really weird about it if they want to follow up in real life. I can barely even say the names of my books out loud because I wrote those too. 

I got my book deal in January and didn't tell my parents about it until April (and then I did it via super awkward text message, sandwiched in between a picture of something Sullivan made and a funny story about something he said).

And Barclay will attest to the fact that any time I get good news about this process, or any time I have a phone meeting with my agent or editor, I get actually, physically ill. The better the news, the sicker I get. My whole entire being suffers from stage fright. (It's actually kind of incredible, the way the brain is, like, connected to the body like that.)

All that said, I'm loving it. I have had a headache for months and the knots in my shoulders are like rocks, but I'm having the time of my life, I really am. I'm so happy and sick and it's all I want to talk about and I do not want to talk about it at all—like really, at all. I would not create a fictional character like this because my editors would say she didn't make sense. They'd say, "So her life-long dream is finally coming true and she just wants to pretend nothing's happening? This is dumb."

And I'd say, "Oh, it's not that she wants to pretend it's not happening. She'd be okay talking to strangers about it."

And they'd be like, "What about her charming, supportive husband who cares so much and asks so many intentional questions?"

And I'd say, "Mm...maybe him sometimes. Depending on her mood. But he's kind of figured her out and knows which questions make her eye twitch and he avoids those. It's really actually very sweet."

Anyway. This is my brain, hello and welcome, I'm sorry if it's weird. I will try my best to not be a jerk, but maybe, if you know me in real life, you could sometimes—just sometimes—meet me in the middle and pretend like I'm an architect or an accountant or some other occupation where we don't really talk about the specifics of my job very much. And the rest of the time I will laugh too much and turn too red and make self-deprecating jokes and steer the conversation hard the other way without even meaning to. (Don't forget that I'm saving you too, because what if you want to talk about this, like, all the time and then you actually read it and you hate it and suddenly you don't know how to mention it in front of me without being super awkward...)

And we will mutually understand that we love each other and that's actually why I'm so shy about this in front of you, and neither of us think that makes much sense but, hey, people don't make sense in all kinds of ways! You're weird too, you just don't write about it on the internet.

Which is probably a good call.

5 comments:

  1. These are 100% my feelings about blogging and I might have to send this to everyone I've ever been weird with about it. I'm actually happy for people I know to read my blog, as long as they never, ever mention it to my face. My mother outlaw (because James and I aren't married - I've called her this in my head for some time and decided to try and make it a thing) buys me the most touchingly thoughtful gifts that are things I've mentioned in passing on my blog and that's really sweet, and it's nice when he tells me she's been reading and enjoying it, but I just can't in person.

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  2. It doesn't seem that strange to me. Our dreams are precious and it is scary to share them especially with people who might hold us accountable.

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  3. I have not written a book so I can’t comment on that aspect, but the blogging part I relate to completely. I hid my blog from my real life people for at least 5 years. I get nauseous if anyone mentions it to me, like they read my diary or something. It reminds me of when I embarrassed myself horribly in Walmart while traveling a few months ago, and my mom said “at least you’ll never see those people again.” Whereas actually having to rehash this stuff in person kills me. That might not make sense. Moral of the story is, there’s safety in relative anonymity.

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  4. Totally 100% get this. I've not written a book, but anything I've published online or for work or in the random elsewheres, I've avoided drawing any attention to because, if people I know read them, they might see me differently from before (or see me the same way and think I'm trying to trick someone) (or think it's rubbish and be painfully, obviously politely neutral about it) (or think it's rubbish and tell me and make me sad) (or the thing will suddenly disappear from existence and I'll look like an idiot for thinking it was special) (or all the other possibilities I haven't figured out yet but which definitely exist). I'm also scared to read things people I know have written, for fear I become the person thinking any of those things.

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  5. This is so genius. And SO relatable.

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