“The dream of being a writer and the crazy price one has to pay for excellence are impossible to demonstrate or, really, even to fathom.” –John Lahr, reviewing the play “Seminar,” now playing in New York, in the November 28 issue of The New Yorker.
My last blog post created a bit of a stir. A friend reposted it on her Facebook wall, and all of a sudden people I didn’t know were reading my blog and commenting on it. This may be silly, but that gave me a thrill. Lately–what with a new blog, and some childcare, and a motivation towards getting out there that has been dormant for some time–I have been feeling, for the first time since I had L, public. Like I am a writer with a writing life, not just a woman squirreled away working on stuff. I made this Website and blog in part because I want to create a sort of grassroots presence for myself on the Web; I have a memoir to publish, after all.
So, anyway, there was this reposting on S’s Facebook page, and then there was a bit of a stir on my own Facebook page. First my friend BK made the point that conservatives “suck hairy elephant nutsacks” (oh boy) and then my mom very brashly said she’d never let a kid cry it out, whence another friend admitted she had in fact let her kid cry it out and then another friend came in on the side of respectful parenting and I sort of tried to smooth everything over, secretly thinking, Uh oh. Conflict.
And I very nearly rethought the whole thing. Because I don’t do conflict that well. It scares me. It worries me that my conservative friends will be really offended by a silly quip or that there will be an all-out war on my Facebook page (no, the smallness of that concern is not lost on me). I am the sort of person who is both deeply opinionated and scared to death that people won’t like her, so I run around trying to make everyone get along.
Over the weekend, deciding how to deal with this problem, I got to thinking about the desire to be a more public sort of writer, since it seems in this day that that is what is required of writers. Have a Website, the books admonish. Have a blog. No space for Emily Dickinsons here, I’m afraid. And then I had to admit to myself that with or without tools like Facebook and WordPress, I’ve kind of set myself up for conflict. My memoir is about the year I spent traveling with B, my now husband. I joke that it’s a “tell-all exposé” of our relationship but the joke is thin; it is. I can’t say what possessed me to write this book other than to say that I started out writing travel essays and quickly realized I had a very different story to tell. So I let it just pour out, and there you have it: how we met, the first time we had sex, the fights we had, the marriage proposal, all on paper. And I want desperately to have it published and widely read. Am I crazy? (Incidentally, what scares me most is my mom and dad reading about us eating hallucinogenic cactus in Peru.)
When you write something like that, you open yourself wide up. For conflict. For judgment. I have been in writing workshops where people said the character of Susie was snobbish, that she needed more gravitas; another found B totally unsympathetic. Another read Susie as an utter basket case by page 50; did I really want that, I was asked? Well, no–and yet, if you’re writing a memoir, you’re bound to tell the truth. And yes, Susie was a total basket case by page 50. After some of those moments of criticism I came home and had a really long, hard cry, and then I went back at it.
If I do get this book published, I know there will be a stir, however minor. And some people will love it, and some will say, what wisdom is this? Why should we care? I guess that’s all a part of the deal.
I just realized how long I have been wanting to get this off my chest.