A few months ago, I was fighting a story I wasn’t sure I had the guts to write, much less publish. The story was about a woman who, after reinventing herself, is forced to face the shame of her promiscuous past. There were erotic elements, even instances where a less-careful reader might think the main character was a lesbian. I got caught up in what I think of as a dangerous place for writers. Rather than worrying about telling a good, honest story, I worried about what people would think of me.
Luckily, I got past myself enough to finish it, charging headfirst through my fears. After careful consideration, I decided to give a copy of my story to a friend at the “class” after my weekly writing class. I’d picked Mary (not her real name) because I’d always admired how frank and free-spirited she was about human sexuality. If anyone could read my story and not be offended, I was certain it would be Mary.
I was wrong.
A few weeks later, I finally had an opportunity to ask Mary what she thought. I got one of those shifty “I liked it” responses, the kind punctuated by a nervous smile and evasive eyes, followed by an immediate topic change.
It rankled. From the way she acted, I was sure she’d gotten the wrong idea, but I was worried I’d over-explain it and make things worse. I let it go, but it still bothered me.
Now here’s my point: should we walk away from our stories, because we worry what people will think of us? Class has resumed. I’m back to seeing Mary again on a weekly basis. Last week, I sat across from her in our lopsided circle, wondering what on earth she thought of me. Did she think I was a closet lesbian? Did she wonder if I’d once been a slut?
Yep, it still bothers me.
If you’re wondering, I submitted the story to an online magazine. I’m sure some writers would disagree with my decision, but I felt the story was worth making myself a little uncomfortable. So what if people judge me? I wrote the story as I thought I had to, doing what felt natural and true for the characters. I think I hit on something honest in the process. I feel good about working through the tough stuff. I just hope if anyone feels they must judge me, they judge me for the right thing.
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4 months ago