Ending my hiatus a bit early. No, I haven’t heard back on any of the nearly dozen applications I filled out this week. A large sigh, a deep breath, and a good deal of determination is what I’ll start Monday with. Keep your fingers crossed for me, if you are so inclined.
The reason I brought an abrupt halt to what became days of self-pity, junk food, and video games is to talk about something that hit me pretty hard today. I want to talk about stories.
I always thought I was terrible at telling real-life stories. I thought you had to have adventures, or at least have a life more interesting than mine to be able to tell the really good, crowd-enrapturing stories. I don’t have adventures, really. Not for lack of trying, to be honest. I like trying new things and meeting new people. I enjoy having new experiences. However, my anxiety thinks it’s best if I just stay home and watch M*A*S*H re-runs.
This became a huge problem for me when I finally figured out that my “what I want to be when I grow up” is a writer. Writers tell stories, and the best writers tell the best stories. In my mind, whenever I think about the writers I admire, I see them standing in a gorgeous room at a fancy party. The writer is surrounded by people who are hanging on her every word. She hits the last line with perfect flair and timing, and the crowd laughs, nods, sighs, or wipes away tears – whichever is appropriate. In my imagination, most of the time it’s laughter the writer gets for her efforts, and not the polite twitter of laughter I tend to get for my stores. No, my imaginary writer gets uproarious belly laughs, maybe even a smattering of applause.
When I decided that I would embark on this path, I knew I would never be that writer. I thought that made me lesser than the writers that I admire, those that tell the great stories at the fabulous dinner parties. For whatever reason, I equated my inability to be the center of attention, my lack of adventures, and my failings with verbal communication with my ability to tell good stories. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that my stories are words on a screen – that just because I can’t “tell” a good story doesn’t mean I can’t tell a good story.
The biggest shock I’ve had, and the one thing I have to keep reminding myself, is that writers can be just as socially awkward as I am. Even the great writers. Stephen King isn’t constantly surrounding by champagne-sipping revelers. John Green has stage fright. Neil Gaiman is shy. If anything, my anxiety puts me closer to these greats, not farther away. What keeps me from reaching that level of greatness isn’t adventures or anxiety.
No, what holds me back is doubt. Doubt in my abilities and doubt in my work.
As soon as I figure out how to deal with that, I’ll let you know.