Monday, January 12, 2009

No Disguises

David is sometimes right; actually, David is often right, especially when it comes to my psyche's well-loved traps. After being married to me for 21 years, he can sniff out my favorite traps from quite a distance and warn me when he thinks I'm walking right into one. Sometimes I listen, and sometimes I don't. (And after all, he may want to spare me the agony of learning the hard way for the 99th time, but at some point I really do need to figure things out for myself, although God knows most of us need all the help we can get from people who love us!).

The most recent example in question concerns my writing and this blog. From time to time I make noises about wanting to write an honest, unvarnished account of the journey that brought me to renounce my ordination vows last April, after 24 years as an Episcopal priest, the only "professional identity" I've ever had. And David has said things like, "Why make it so big? why tell yourself you have to write a book? No one should write a book unless they absolutely MUST! Why don't you just start to write about it in your blog? Why make your blog one thing and your "book writing" another?"

Well, I have my days when I think he's absolutely right, and then I have my days when the public exposure side of a blog makes me a little bit queasy. I love the fact that on any given day, I might hear from SOMEONE who has read my blog and gives me quick feedback. It is wonderful to know that people are actually reading it and getting something out of it. But I also worry that if I started writing a truly honest account of my journey, I might start getting some negative feedback, might start shocking some people and losing my fledgeling readership, and that would convince me to stop writing. Or at least that even imagining that I could stir up some really negative feedback might make me less honest and bold in my writing. (Hmmm, sounds like a garden variety voice of fear, with maybe a little valorous discretion mixed in...)

I had a wee small breakthrough last week that is prompting me to just go ahead and blog it all anyway. I was rehearsing in my head the two most feared and anticipated criticisms I have of my writing (besides that it might be considered blasphemous, or something--but hey, what can they do to me? I'm not a priest any more!). I really really don't want people to think my writing is either BORING or SELF-INDULGENT. Especially the "self-indulgent" one...somehow that one really gets its claws into me. Partly because I know two or three people who have leveled that charge against Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. (I found Under the Tuscan Sun to be kind of whiny and self-indulgent; I found Eat, Pray, Love to be honest. Maybe it's because one was fussing about a house in Tuscany--such a "problem"--and the other was talking about big internal issues in ways I found helpful.)

Back to my breakthrough: So I have these twin fears: that people will think my writing is "boring and/or self-indulgent" and that I might fail. And it occurred to me that if some people find Eat, Pray, Love to be self-indulgent and I liked Eat, Pray, Love (and clearly a lot of other people do too; more on that another time), then perhaps having my writing considered "self-indulgent" was not such a bad thing! Maybe it could even be seen as a hidden compliment! And boring? The surest way to be boring is not to tell the truth, to pretty things up too much. There are way, way, way too many pretty-sounding (and holy-sounding) books and blogs out there. The last thing I want to do is to write another!

And then it also occurred to me that if I'm simply setting out to write and to tell my story, then the only way to fail is NOT TO WRITE IT. I never said anything about writing a runaway best-seller that sits atop the New York Times list for weeks on end, although maybe that's not such a bad idea. I just said I want to write and to tell my story. 

And just so you know, that means I want to write it down, at least most of it, and I also hope to be able to speak it, in public, in a variety of venues. (After all, I do have 24 years of public speaking practice.) And I'd love for any and all ideas of where to do so as things unfold.

1 comment:

Cori Lynn Berg said...

Okay, first of all, smiles all around. I know this comes from pain of a sort but I smiles because your writing is speaking to my own pain -- someone with one foot in the church and one foot out.

2. I probably wouldn't have found your writing if it were in a book. Your husband was right!

3. Here -- your writing is boring and self-indulgent. So now you've been told that. It's out of the way. Get on with the writing! At times all of our work is going to be a bit boring. Why do we kid ourselves. The great thing about the blog is people can click through, find what they want. That's okay!!! And writing about yourself is self-indulgent. You are saying that your story is worth hearing. But I, for one, the lowly person who stumbled upon your writing, believe it is. Indulge, indulge, indulge, and do it in truth just as you say!!!