I stand in the front of a room, 50 people before me, as we work together to raise money to fight cancer, the disease that took my mom away, the disease that stole so much from so many of us. I look at her and then him and then her, making eye contact before I say, “You have to ask. You have to ask again. You have to trust that these are grown adults and that they will say NO if they need to.” When it comes to raising money for a cause I love, I will beg, harangue, and speak the truth of ugliness without hesitation.
When it comes to my own writing, I whisper.
I whisper, even though writing – the words I carve into pages and the words carved by others around me – have given me so much, almost as much as cancer has taken. I don’t trust that what I do has value. I don’t trust that people around me will simply ignore my requests or say NO if need be. I don’t trust.
I don’t trust that my work is worth it. Even now, even though I believe so completely in the work of other people. I don’t believe in my own that way.
Part of that trepidation comes from other people, yes, who make comments about “self-promotion” or “too much advertising.” I don’t want to bother people.
But mostly, this is about me because, well, people deal with advertising every day, usually without complaint – on TV, as they drive, in the videos they stream on this internet. If it was really about people and their resent of self-promotion, well, our culture would look very different, and then I might just have to think about speaking for my work.
No, this is about me, about this belief I’ve absorbed and reinforced in myself that what I do is not as important as . . . well, as anything, apparently since Candy Crush sells more “whatevers” than I sell books. Not that I want to sell myself. I don’t. I want my work to be enough.
Somehow, I’ve come to believe that my work as a writer, an editor, a teacher is not good enough, not worthy of someone’s time or money. And that “somehow” is all about me as an artist . . . and as a woman.
Over and over, I read how women artists are much less assertive about their value as artists, how we hesitate to speak up, how we devalue our services and works in ways that men don’t. I think there’s a great deal of truth to that statement because, no matter how much of a feminist I am (And I wear that f-word proudly), I was still raised in a culture – both the larger American one and the Christian sub-one – that say women are lesser in most ways and that our work, therefore, is lesser, too.
So I’m learning to fight for myself, to believe my beautiful husband when he says what I do is important, to trust those of you who read this blog and say it matters. I’m learning that I matter, that my time for this work matters, that the practice matters. I will have to re-learn that over and over again.
I am learning to trust that if I put myself and my work out there, it will be okay. I will be okay, even if people say NO. And I’m remembering that when I do, the YES – the one I shout to myself if nothing else – drowns out the NO every time.
What about you? Do you have a hard time believing that your work matters? Why do you think that is?
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