Evelyn, Why I Write

Dear Evelyn,

I want you to know that I heard all those things you said to me. You know, the nights I sat with one finger that hovered above the ENTER key as you whispered in my ear, it’s not good enough. You’re out of your league. What are you doing?

I heard you. And then, despite your never-ending taunts I pushed down on that key, and off my submission went to the literary journal.  As my chest tightened, and my breathing became shallow, I turned around to see if maybe you changed your mind after I submitted the story.  Maybe now that I pushed on that key, you thought it was ok, that I tried this “writing thing.”

Instead as I glimpsed over my shoulder, I saw this: your head bent forward while you placed one hand over your face, and shook your head from right to left, with a signal of, no.

It was a look of utter disappointment.

I gulped.

I sweated.

And then, I waited.

You told me not to say a word to anyone when I first began writing. The fictional people and places that I created in my mind would slowly transform and become real to me on my computer screen. But in the beginning, I was the only one that knew about them.

I built worlds. And I created characters.

For three years, no one knew except for my husband.  I want you to know that it was hard to lie to family and friends who asked me, “What are your plans for the weekend?”

I would casually answer, “Oh, maybe I’ll go to Starbucks and read a book.” But quietly in my mind I would scream, AND WORK ON SOME WRITING PROJECTS!

We both know it was important to me that I get published in a literary journal before I revealed my secret ambitions to anyone. Then one late Sunday night, after returning home after visiting family, I perused my email and saw a response from a literary journal. I scowled at the email.  Clicked on the message, and prepared to be rejected again.

In the background, you laughed at me.

But it wasn’t a rejection.  They were ACCEPTING it. My first online publication with a literary journal called Potluck Magazine, and a short story titled, “Do You See Me?” caused me to throw my hands over my mouth as tears gathered in my eyes, and I let out a scream. A reason finally to dance, I started to spin around in circles in my office as I threw my hands up in the air and did my own amended version of the Macarena.

My husband charged up the stairs believing I was facing another catastrophic moment in my life (I guess a happy scream and a sad one, sounds the same coming from me) and he pushed the door open and said, “What happened?”

I yelled, “They accepted my story!” and continued to do some form of an ostrich dance. My husband cautiously approached me with my arms flailing about, beamed at me, and said, “That’s wonderful,” and he wrapped his arms around me.

You were wrong, Evelyn. When I finally, very slowly, began to tell my family and friends, they were happy for me. They patted me on the back proudly, and offered their congratulations.

But we both know the truth, don’t we?

It was never you.

It was me. 

Me: You can’t write. You’re not good enough. Stop wasting your time. It’s impossibly difficult. Why do you even bother? You’ll never be successful at this, “writing thing.” IT’S A LONG SHOT.

I know all these things are true. But I have rebuttals. Everyone starts somewhere. I’ll keep working on it. If I don’t try, I’ll never know. In my head, there’s a constant battle between the two sides.

Just like me, my writing is a work in progress. Just like running, I’m slow at it, and take my time.

There’s a part of me that knows I should stay in the real world. The problem is the imaginary world is so much damn fun. Creating places and people, that are quirky and weird that do odd things; or sometimes I create fictional characters and situations inspired by my life events. Finally, there are the stories based on my life.

The other problem with giving up on writing – I LOVE IT! It’s given me a voice, an imagination, a life that I always felt was impossible.

I won’t lie to you Evelyn, writing is challenging. The creating is difficult, and creating a cohesive story where you don’t accidentally place a character in France, while they are simultaneously living in New York, requires a keen eye and the ability to critique your own work and laugh at your mistakes. It’s exhausting.

Then there’s the grammar portion. Sometimes this part of it is easy and the words flow like a river. Sometimes it’s as if someone has stolen my dictionary and thesaurus, and I’m stumbling around blindly with my mouth stitched closed.

But I work at it. I struggle through the writes, re-writes, the criticism, the bank account that suffers due to the overwhelming amount of paper I go through, printer cartridges, and general stationary.

Because every now and then, maybe I’ll write something that a reader sees and says, yeah, me too! And sometimes, people will just enjoy my stories about a Hero Mouse. If through my writing, there’s just one person who likes a story, or I connect with them on a personal level because of a common experience, it makes the long hours sitting at my computer tapping away – worth it.

Evelyn – that’s why I write.

I want to thank you for always being there. Because you weren’t the one discouraging me, it was me. But even that voice, that self-doubt, allows me to blossom as a writer. By reviewing my work, I’ll look at it critically and wonder: how can I make that sentence better? How will that be interpreted by readers? Am I communicating what I meant to?  

So maybe my lack of self-confidence can be a good thing – as long as it doesn’t stop me from hitting the send button.

Your friend always,

Penny

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