The fact of the matter is, I’m a coward. I will freely admit to being that person who never ever ever speaks up, and until very recently this applied nearly as much in the written world as the spoken. It took (erm, takes?) me ages to write a comment on a blog or a news article because I sit and ponder out what I’m trying to say, write some stuff and delete half of it, try it again, then again, and finally come out with something stultifying and dull because I edited it to death.
I’m terrified of unwittingly insulting someone, so I’m careful to tone everything down. But even more than that I’m terrified of looking stupid. It’s not that hard to do–look stupid, I mean. Tons of people do it, even intelligent ones. The moment I start attempting to write something in a public forum all these zany voices start up in my head: Don’t use that word, you can’t write that sentence, what the hell kind of nonsense do you think you’re vomiting in this comments box anyway? You think your language is cute and funny? Ha! Watch out, you screwed up that apostrophe, sucker!
This self-censoring is a mega problem for someone who wants to publish something some day. Like for realz. For many many long years I was able to convince myself that writing was important, writing was uber important, writing is WAY MORE important than submitting something. Why submit until you’re ready, after all? And no, don’t bother with your school’s student literary magazine, you have set your sights higher than that and anyway you’re too busy writing to be bothered to spit out the required email and format the manuscript.
Way too busy writing for that. Writing and hastily minimizing the screen whenever someone walks in the room.
But there’s something vulgar about publication, no? It’s a kind of twisted voyeurism. “Publication — is the auction / of the Mind of Man,” as Emily Dickinson says. They’re reading your mind, your heart. Self-preservation dictates that I flee in the other direction.
So I sat in the corner and wrote and wrote and wrote. Oh, every now and then someone read something of mine, mostly for creative writing classes. But I wrote those stories for the classes and edited the crap out of them until they were stultifying and dull come critique time. They weren’t “real.” The real stuff was super secret, my eyes only, rawer and truer. I could have kept doing that forever on end, maybe, if not for the internet. All those brave souls, plucking away at their computers in regional and even national dialogues, all pouring their hearts out without fear of retribution or mockery or excoriation.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t even bring myself to agree or disagree with their views in the comments box at the bottom of the page.
Those little comment boxes finally pushed me over the edge. The warning alarms in my head became too loud to ignore, and I had to face facts: I am terrified of being published and never being published, almost in equal measure. My little voice seemed too insignificant to be heard — but I also want desperately (like most writers) to be heard. That little conflict had to end.
So I started a blog. (I know. Surprise!)The results are certainly erratic, but what the hey, right? It’s a start. Everybody starts somewhere. We clack away at our keyboards, scratching our way up from the bottom, taking risks with every post, every comment, every new or daring idea. Eventually it starts to feel familiar. Putting words together into sentences — hey, I know this. Ideas and words and risks? I know this. I’ve done this before. I could do this all day long.
And I’m finally ready for you to hear what I have to say.