Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
These words radiated the first day that I heard them, as they radiate today. I’ve always had trouble referring to myself as a writer– I’m a blogger or a tweeter, a clever girl with a lot of ideas. But something was, is, always holding me back. There was truth and damnit, I need to learn how to tell it.
It was a gorgeous day, late September 2012, the kind of weather that makes a couple of gals from Richmond, Virginia want to hop in a car and make the traffic heavy jaunt up to Washington D.C. We didn’t have any specific plans so when we drove past the National Mall and saw the crowds and tents, we settled on a destination. It was still festival season, after all. We found a garage that didn’t cost our life savings, parked and followed the throng back in the direction of the mall.
It wasn’t until we stepped onto the grass that we discovered the gem on to which we stumbled. The National Book Festival. A book festival?! I had flashbacks to my favorite bits of elementary school, the book fairs where I would try to con my mother into buying me stacks on stacks of chapter books. (No, I wasn’t particularly popular.) We popped into a tent and watched a children’s author read a book to her tiny fans. We were walking through the festival rather aimlessly at first and then after locating beautiful brochures, I zeroed in on a name.
Jeffrey Eugenides has been one of my favorite authors since I picked up his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Middlesex. It was a dense book with an interesting cover, since I am a great lover of judging books by their covers, I picked it up. (I’m telling you, it works.) I went backwards from there, reading The Virgin Suicides and then The Marriage Plot. He was reading an excerpt from The Marriage Plot when we came across him that day. But it was a question from the audience and the subsequent answer that laid me flat out. “Oh shit. That’s me.”
At the evident risk of seeming ridiculous, I want to begin by saying that I have tried for much of my life to write as if I’m composing my sentences to be read posthumously. I hope this isn’t too melodramatic or self-centered a way of saying that I attempt to write as if I did not care what reviewers said, what peers thought, or what prevailing opinions may be.” -Christopher Hitchens
I’m currently in the midst of writing a story that I’m hoping to turn into something more. At least, that’s my mental plan. I have been trapped on the same paragraph for a month. I open up the document often enough…I stare at it for a few minutes and then take to the internet to find out whether I’m using the latest and greatest word processor.
I’m already aware that I’m my own worst enemy. I’m a lazy perfectionist— I like things to be done to a certain level, in a certain way and boy am I ever glad that I’m smart/talented enough to not have to work so hard to get it done. But more than that, there’s fear holding me back. I’m afraid of writing something that all of my friends and family would read and hate, a la Dan Humphrey in Gossip Girl: Season 5, Episode 4. (Don’t judge me.) I’m afraid that my parents will be embarrassed by the sex or that my friends won’t appreciate their reinterpretations or that even worse— maybe hurt by them. I want to be secure in the knowledge that while I am among the living, I am doing the people I know proud. But perhaps pretending that I’m writing like I’m already dead will give me the freedom to do what I need to do to really live.