The Right to Write: Honesty

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Como conservatory flower room

To give context, I’m having significant anxiety the last few days, more than I’ve had in several months. So much that despite the dry weather, I woke up in full-on asthma attack last night.

Why? Because something good happened. I’m having a major anxiety attack over something good: part of this is that it did come heaped with some underlying nastiness, not intended by the people that made the delivery. There is no gracious way for me to ask “can I avoid this specific attitude-holder?” So while I want to embrace this new and wonderful thing, that nastiness has raised all sorts of new fears, and made me ask the question…”is this the trustworthy place?” My deep self says yes, but my ego is a bit bruised.

On the other hand, I finally realize why Julia Cameron encourages us to indulge our sensitive natures, to be a little more thin-skinned, to not always “man up.” While some people pretend to be thin skinned as a way of controlling others and most of us see that for what it is to the point of ignoring or steamrollering genuine hurt, I’ve finally figured out the positive side to sensitivity.

You know what to protect. For years I’ve let my work get trampled, let people convince me I’m a bad writer or that I’m grammatically incompetent, and then seen projects get horribly eviscerated as, in the name of being “professional,” I decided not to insist upon my own vision. I realize it doesn’t matter if the people that crap on my work are jealous. Knowing the motivation does not help the problem. What does help is standing up for myself, and to do that I do not need a confrontation most of the time. Confrontations are for absolute last resorts. No, to stand up for myself I just need to say these magic words: “I disagree. Here’s why…” As long as I ignore people treating me like a 20-something noob who submits manuscripts in crayon, they will continue to treat me as though that’s what I’m doing. (To be fair, one manuscript is in marker AND crayon – but I self-published that one with meditated reason. Also, the reactions to that manuscript were an excellent litmus test for who to work with in the future. I require my compatriots to have a sense of flexibility and humor.)

So why am I having an anxiety attack? If I practice the honesty exercise, it’s because I’m scared I will not be properly supported when I need it the most. I don’t need a lot of hand holding. There are editors I’ve worked with that love me because I always hit my deadlines, often hit them early, and when they kick something back for a rewrite I see it as a great opportunity.

But this new situation…this is the unknown. This is landing in Paris unable to properly pronounce the word for 15 in French. This unwarranted criticism is the schizophrenic that greeted me on the metro (Metaphorically only. I am not stating that this person has any disease of any kind. I don’t know this.) This is the inner critic, now outside of me, telling me to stay home, not try, not risk.

On the other side, this is my friend Andrew whispering to me during a particularly bad patch of life both inner and outer: “Remember who you are.”

I am the person that sees a possibility for failure and does it anyway. I am the person that got rejected all the time, from my earliest memories, and kept asking for what I really wanted anyway. I am the person who really means it when I offer someone help.

I can do this. I even have friends that want to help this time.