"Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through every sentence you write, every piece you finish."--John Jakes
There have been two time periods in my life where this simple declaration by John Jakes resonated clearly for me: in my twenties and now again in my forties. But even in my twenties, I felt shame from being who I really wanted to be. That idea of "be yourself" was never as clear for me as it is today. Now I say, here I am. Do not censor me. Accept me or leave me.
There have always been people around me who discourage me from being a writer for fear of what I might write about them. I find this weird and oddly disturbing. What are you so afraid of? The truth of how I see you? My perception of your insecurities?
I was only nine years old when I wrote my first real story. It was eighty pages of blood and gore--I like to describe it as Stephen King-esque--but it's actually sort of a comedy when I read it these days. That was the beginning of countless stories written in notebooks and passed between classmates from elementary through high school. I doubt that anyone I grew up with assumed I would be anything but a writer.
But wait. A writer? Is there any money in that? Is that a real career? Are you kidding me? Suddenly, outside influences voiced their disbelief and criticism when college rolled around. Do something useful with that talent. Go into marketing. Be a journalist. Anything but say you're going to write books! You silly, dreamer, you. Do not shame us by being something as non-important as a writer. That's not a real job. Oh, and you say you write romance? As in sex scenes? You're not using your real name, are you? How embarrassing for us, those close to you. People will talk.
Well, I hope people do talk. That's the point. It took years of compromising, settling for less and writing manuscripts that I never submitted before I reached this point of declaring, "Here I am, world. Look at me. I am a writer. Read what's in my heart."
I will not be censored or downsized anymore by anyone. There have been times in my life when I feel as if hands were wrapped around my ankles pulling me down until I could barely breathe beneath the weight of the expectations (never my own), limitations (from all the compromising) and the judgment (misguided).
Now I am swimming above all that muck. I feel the sun on my skin. I see the limitless blue sky. I will never be dragged down again.
As Bono of U2 said, "every artist is a cannibal." I must write what is in my heart and soul for any of the words to ring true. If I know you, will I write about you one day? Probably in some way or another. Will you know it? Only if you recognize yourself as how I see you. Will I name names? Never. Not in print anyway.