“One of the things that I’ve worked my way out of doing, and I knew I needed to, was comparing myself to other people. That just poisons everything…Your real job in the world is to be you.” India.Arie on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey
I was watching Super Soul Sunday last Sunday and I caught the last half of Oprah’s interview with India.Arie. I’d never heard of her before that interview, but as she talked about her creative life and her spiritual awakening, she might have been talking about aspects of my life. I’ve struggled to be creative on my own terms. I didn’t think I was worthy enough to share my deepest, truest feelings, and gifts with anyone except for a select few. I was a people pleaser.
I was insecure about my writing in the beginning, so, I decided to take a writing class at the local community center. I worked hard on the pieces I presented to the class. When I read over my selections, I thought they were pretty good. However, I was devastated when the teacher told me she thought my work was guarded. I could be sharing so much more of myself and capturing the emotions of the readers. I felt like I’d shared some very emotional experiences in my work, but she didn’t see it that way.
Her good opinion meant so much to me. At the time I was writing a memoir. I took what she said to heart and worked for two years to peel away the protective layers to reveal my true self. My memoir went through lots of revisions. When I thought it was finished, I gave it to a couple of people to read for a critique. They liked it. So, I thought it was ready for a real critique. I contacted my former writing teacher and sent her my memoir.
In my mind, it was ready for publication. But, again, she told me that my work was too guarded. In her opinion, I was detached from the events I was relating. I needed to take more chances to reveal myself, the good and the bad. There was one ray of hope, though. She said that I should keep writing. That I had talent and that from the little she knew of me, she felt like I was a warm caring person. I just needed to let that person show through my writing.
She did me a big favor. Though I was deeply disappointed, I knew I was being presented with a fantastic opportunity. I’d been a guarded introvert for most of my life. Maybe it was time to let the real me out of her box. On the other hand I wasn’t sure I was ready to be that vulnerable. The next week, I told my writer’s group I thought I’d eventually turn my memoir into a novel, because it’s easier to hide my true self behind a fictionalized story.
My feelings about the failure of my memoir were too raw to pick it up again. I set it aside. The beginnings of a novel I’d started years before sat in a file on one of our old computers. I decided to make a fresh start and work on the novel thinking I could maintain my anonymity in a work of fiction. How naive I was.
During that time, I stepped up my spiritual practice and as always happens, little by little I realized that I couldn’t hide who I was any longer. If I was going to be an effective writer, I had to slice through the armor I’d been wearing and let people see the real me. The best stories touch us because the teller has revealed a part of herself.
It’s a scary prospect to reveal the real me to the world, but I’ve decided to risk it. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog.
Not long ago I saw the movie, Snow White and the Huntsman. One of my favorite things to do is to use the Internet Movie Database app on my phone and find out as much as I can about the movie I’m watching. It’s all part of my process of analyzing the plot, characters and themes of the story. I don’t often read the user reviews. When I was reading information about Snow White and the Huntsman, I noticed the titles of some of the user reviews and was appalled at the negativity. I liked the movie and decided I had an opportunity to share my true thoughts and feelings by writing a positive review of the movie. It’s a good place to start, because a review is supposed to be written in a little bit of a detached style, but the writer’s opinion still comes through. I have to say, it felt good to share my opinion and let it go out into the world. I plan to keep writing book and movie reviews when I feel the urge. It’s good writing practice.
If you want to see what I wrote about Snow White and the Huntsman, here’s the link. http://imdb.com/title/tt1735898/reviews-673
I’m still working on my novel. I’ll let you read portions of it from time to time. You can tell me what you think about it. Please feel free to comment on my blog posts too. If you think I’m hiding my true thoughts and feelings. I want you to tell me. Thanks for reading.