I promised I would post more about the Faith and Culture Writers Conference, so I’m back with another post. I could tell you about the almost magical experience of having my eyes opened to new ways of thinking about my writing and the practice of writing. I could go on forever about how good it was not to feel alone in some of my feelings about writing. But there is one big thing I learned about myself that pretty well overshadows the rest, if only because the rest falls into place after understanding it.
Here it is: I discovered that I have a lot of trouble being honest with myself as a writer. I’m pretty good at knowing what I’m feeling, even if I don’t always handle myself well. But when it comes to writing, I still doubt, second-guess, and let shame and fear hold me prisoner.
Those are things I need to let go of. I’m tired of the emotional drain of holding back because I think someone won’t like the real me through my writing. Oddly, I don’t fear people disliking me the person–life has shown me I have nothing to worry about there. People like me or they don’t; it doesn’t bother me either way. Yet as a writer, I still want approval in some way. I’ve seen it happen time and again that people become the devil incarnate for writing something that someone else doesn’t like or agree with. It’s this tendency to put people on pedestals and then have our hopes dashed when they turn out not to be perfect. I suppose I would rather have people see me as flawed first, rather than hating me later because I ruined their image of me.
While I was at the conference, I missed an opportunity to use my writing honestly. I volunteered for an exercise, and our charge was to write an obituary for one of our fictional characters. Instead of writing what I wanted to, I crossed it out and started over, using humor to cover my insecurity that what I had wasn’t good enough or might offend someone.
I’m done with that.
I realized that I’ve been hiding my fiction writing from my regular blog audience by keeping it compartmentalized. Sure, I link to the occasional stories or snippets of my work-in-progress. But it’s still in its own space, a gap between that and what I write here. I told myself it was because they’re too dissimilar. Fiction can’t possibly belong here because the first “rule” of blogging is to have narrow focus. In reality, I just didn’t want to have to share it and be vulnerable that way.
As part of my move forward, I need to be able to share what’s inside me. My fiction doesn’t stray far from my passion for a more loving, inclusive faith as expressed here. Years ago, a friend said that when I was ready, I should “keep open house with my heart.” That’s what I want to do.
Next week, you’ll see some changes. First, I’m combining my other blog with this one, and I’m going to change the look of the page. This is temporary; I’m in process of creating my own piece of Internet real estate in the form of purchased hosting. I have a lot of reasons for this change, not the least of which is my own readiness to move forward with my writing. That will take a while, and when it’s ready, I’ll let you know what’s coming.
Second, I’m going to begin using the name under which I plan to publish. This is not dishonesty; the name still belongs to me, and I’m reclaiming it as part of my identity as a woman and as a writer. I’ll be using my initials and my birth name. I promise I’m still the same person. My legal name is still important to me as it relates to my connectedness with my family, but my family is not who I am. I need that separation from my label as WifeMommy.
For those of you who have subscribed, liked my posts, commented, and followed me, many thanks. I hope you’ll stick with me on this road. Further up and further in, my friends!