I see her in the mornings before the Super Pup is full awake, and then again at night, when the dog has taken to snoring on the couch. During the day, Charlotte sleeps in the hot water heater closet or up on my spare pillows in the bedroom closet, tucked away, hidden, as high as she can climb.
Some days, I feel like I should try to socialize her more, coax her to smell my fingers a few times a week, maybe even pet her. She used to let me pet her in the night, when she’s sleep tight against my inner thighs. When my fingers grazed her silken, soft gray coat, she would purr with the thrum of a motorcycle before bolting upright and moving away.
Short posts get the most readers. Chick lit sells really well. Give your readers what they want. The whisperings that echo in my mind when I sit to write, the legacy of too much reading about sales and platform, the misplaced ache for affirmation and approval.
I have tried to coax my fingers to these things – to write shorter, to use simpler sentences. I’ve wondered how I can write for women since, in one of the quiet tragedies of our culture, that women’s voices are, still, deemed best for women. I follow the formulas and top ten lists that pundits advise are best.
When I write to these prescriptions, the numbers of readers go up, and a thrum of energy waves out.
But this thrum has no life. In fact, it steals away the vivacity of my writing because it forces me to think too much about how something will be perceived and far too little about saying exactly what it is that I see in the front of my mind, behind my forehead. I cannot coax myself to be the kind of writer I am not.
The irony of writing for numbers or expectations is that I write, then, for something beyond the work itself. I write for validation, for money, even. Those things are not the point. The work – the truest, deepest, most powerful work I can produce – that’s the point.
So I quit trying. I quit trying to mold myself to sales figures and the easy reads our culture devours but never digests. I quit again today. And I will quit again tomorrow. I quit until I trust that my voice is enough and more.
Sometimes, in the evenings, I hear Charlotte purr. As I sit on the couch and sew, I hear the rumble that belies her tiny body.
Her joy has nothing to do with me. Nothing to do with what I expect or what I’d like. She seizes her bliss by being exactly who she is . . . across the room from me.
Her brother Oscar is cleaning her. She is safe. She is content. Purring away.
What do you try to coax yourself to be as a writer? What voices do you hear telling you should be something you are not?