This morning in my journal I wrote:
When will I learn to write myself, to be who I am, who I am becoming. Perhaps it is easier to be who everyone else wants (or I think they want) because those wants I see more discretely. My own wants are woven of wounds and wishes.”
As an observer by training and an overly giving person by nature and upbringing, my days are spent trying to understand other people. Why did she do that? What does it mean that he wants this? How did that come to be? I wouldn’t trade this experience of life for anything. It is part of how I was made to be – to see and understand.
What I would change is the way I can so easily turn those observations and understandings into judgments about the value of my own work or my own life. Let me give an example. Last night, I came across this great blog post by Amy where she is looking at Stockett’s novel The Help and trying to both value it’s place as a good novel and also, perhaps, a piece of flawed historical fiction. She is asking good questions about authenticity and voice in writing, and I definitely think I’ll do some more reading about the work of domestics in the Civil Rights era. It wasn’t what she said that was hard for me to take; it was the way I turned it back to my own writing. Is my book condescending? Does it appropriate stories I don’t have a right to tell? Is there someone else who should write the book?
These are not new questions for me. I’ve struggled with them for a while, and in fact, they are what kept me from reading Stockett’s work for months. I have come to a place in my own writing where I think I do have a right to tell this story, mostly because – at least for now – I am the only one who is willing to do so. I can take the criticism of Stockett’s work and be mindful of it, and I should do so. But I can’t – as I did for a few minutes last evening – let that criticism shut me down or change my project, a project that I feel is valid and important on so many levels.
I do the same thing with blogs. I read good advice on another blog and then think mine needs to be that way. In dating, I take someone else’s definitions of things and try to lay them on my own unique experience. In life in general, I allow the TV lives of make-believe people to make me feel embarrassed about the story of my own life. This has to stop. I like who I am when I let myself trust my own voice. I need to speak my words more loudly to drown out the others.
So I’m learning – it seems for the 10,000th time – to be who I am made to be, to tell the stories I was made to tell. I will heed the cautions and consider the questions. But in the end, I need to write and live the life is only my own. Wounds, wishes, and all.