There’s that quote about fear and change and growth and being uncomfortable. I can never remember it exactly. Perhaps because, per the quick google search I just performed to try to jog my memory, lots of people are talking about the whole fear-growth-uncomfortable-changey thing. So here’s my contribution . . .
I’m taking a writing class, trying to push past a bit of a stuck phase I’m in. I tend to blame this stuck phase on lack of inspiration. Or the fact that I have become less disciplined now that I am no longer trying to squeeze writing in between working and grad school (i.e. Never mind that self-imposed deadline, I have so much free time after work and on the weekends I can always write tomorrow). While these may be a part of it, they aren’t nearly all of it.
The exercise in class was to write about our history as a writer. We were told to write until we had nothing to else to say. I started with memories from childhood. Elaborate stories I acted out with stuffed animals. The book about two cats (literally, cats) that fell in love, which I read a snippet from at a launch party hosted on the playground near my friend’s house (we served gummy bears and swiss cake rolls). The bad pathos-laden high school poetry. I wrote about frequently being told my papers in college were well-written, but not connecting this with writing outside academia until much later. About friends telling me my e-mails made them laugh, but not connecting this with voice until much later.
And then, my tone shifted. I wrote about my decision to really sit down and write; to seriously try to finish that story I started. A decision that was largely motivated by the sudden death of a close friend and a tangible realization about the brevity of life. The story that went on to grab the attention of an agent, who tried her best to sell it. The story that many editors praised as well-written but ultimately passed on for publication; offering tidbits of critique on plot and pace and hook. All of which I tried my hardest to learn from; to use in the writing of the next novel. The perfect publishable novel. With no heart.
So where does the uncomfortable come in. It comes in reading this to the class. Unpolished. Unedited. Raw. I could take the easy road here; claim that I had no idea that we would be sharing our writing. But I knew. Maybe it wasn’t even that I consciously thought about it; but more just that my soul knew this was what I needed; to write the darker, heavier stuff down and say it out loud.
The last words I wrote in class were as follows. Writing a novel was something I did instinctually the first time and something I must make room for. It can’t be learned, just must be given space. And freedom. If the price of that space and freedom is a few minutes of red-faced, shaky voiced discomfort, so be it. I owe it to the stories that still need to be told.