Today call me exposed. Not in the literal sense, although – at times – this too applies; but for now I’m referring to emotional exposure. The really naked kind below my skin.
True, I share a lot of myself. Sometimes too much. I’ll confess to attending the gym in pants patched by a piece of my husband’s sock; to being afraid of selling Girl Scout cookies to the friendliest of neighbors. I’ll admit I don’t carry a purse after having left one literally everywhere (New York, Tijuana, the Kennedy Center); to missing deadlines and expiration dates, occasionally on purpose. No one was surprised I drove my daughter to the wrong volleyball tournament, then let her play four games with a strange team from an entirely different league because they were down a player and she’s a good sport.
Yet I know I haven’t spilled the core of it yet. And I’m not sure that I want to. Still, I think perhaps I must as a player in this game (even if I find myself at the wrong tournament in an entirely different league). After all, I am a writer. Or I want to be more than almost anything.
What is it about writing that tempts me to plumb my depths? Maybe it’s not the writing but motherhood that does it. Or being a wife. Perhaps it’s simply a measure of “humanness” to doubt myself. Deeply. To wonder every day if I am enough. If I’ve worked enough, loved enough, cared enough. To worry someone might realize I’m a fraud. That I’m not funny. Or smart. Or motivated.
I think I embrace self-deprecation so I can beat everyone to the finish line of a race that’s marked with the ribbon of my embarrassment; so I can be in charge of my own punch lines. So I can laugh with everyone before I discover they’re laughing at me.
I can’t be alone in this reluctance to put myself out there. To set myself up for judgment. To ask others whether I’m good enough. Or not. When writing, you’re almost guaranteed to meet with more disapproval than approval. At least at first. Before there are book deals signed. Facebook pages to manage. Twitter followers to thank. If. When. Whatever.
When I was lucky enough to find an agent willing to submit my book to editors, I told her it felt like handing over a child for someone else to criticize. Only worse, because my kids sprouted from DNA beyond my control and I’d written every word of this potential disasterpiece.
Then I read a blog post by someone whose book had actually sold (Hooray!) yet she confessed to feeling terror that her book – a lifelong dream – would be treated like a nightmare. By critics, by readers, by the world. I cringed while I read, realizing I would most likely feel that same terror were I fortunate enough to sell a manuscript. If. When. Whatever.
No matter how many doors open, I still feel like an outsider looking in through too many windows to count. Someone else is funnier, smarter, more popular, more prolific. Someone else has done it longer, has more followers, is simply better than I. There’s always someone better.
So the question I ask myself today, the one exposing all my insecurities, my fears and hopes and pain is this: What is good enough and how will I recognize it when I get there? If you have the answer, please feel free to share. And if you don’t, even better.
Then I’ll know for sure I’m not alone.
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