Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Decisions, Decisions


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.

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Since I've known you, waivering is not a word that comes to mind. Your writing is provocative, thoughtful, and always a reflective slice of life. While I understand the fears behind your posting, I applaud your resolve to push the story out in spite of the discomfort it may bring. In fact, your strength inspires me. Maybe I'll cross that bridge soon, too, as I wonder what people will think of me when they see the darkness that lies within. Like you, though, I don't write on that side because I live it; I write it because it's the most comfortable vehicle to ride in--to show the world what I see in this journey we call life.

Keep it up. And let me know where this story lands so I can read it in published form.