I Dare You

Since I was a little kid I imagined myself living the life of a writer. There I am, writing under the eaves of a finished attic overlooking a grove of trees with an incline down to a lovely lake.  I  watch the seasons change and draw inspiration from the fresh air and singing birds and all the lovely colors of spring, summer, autumn and winter… The reality is I live in a suburb of Dallas--- flat land, the only season we have with any regularity is summer—the hot bleaching burning kind of summer—complete with lots of allergens and heat that keeps me indoors with windows closed much more than is reasonable.

Instead of having a writing cozy in an attic overlooking a lake and a big fruitful tree, I have removed the dining room furniture and replaced it with a desk---- in the front room of our house--- (the kitchen is big enough serve our dining needs) and instead of having a continual bounty of ideas to inspire my writing I have learned the lesson of any profession:  writing is hard work.  No little bird chirping inspiration on my window sill, no lovely breeze to move my hand to wax poetic on the beauties of nature while making astute observations on the human condition.

Nope, years of apprenticeship doing research, reading reading reading and some more reading; writing and re-writing and re-writing and more writing.  Most writers I know love to read, have to read, look back and see the innumerable pages and piles of books that have been our favored companions and playmates since we were tiny children.  We love words, wordplay, the sound the feel the touch of words rolling off our tongues and dancing around our brains. And if we have this thing, this niggling need, this insistent crying baby need we will write, if only for an audience of one.  And all that work that seemed like play, that seemed sometimes to be time stolen from more important tasks, shapes and persuades and cajoles and nags until we develop a voice and make it our own.

Over the years when I had the opportunity to dive into the writing world I met with a great deal of internal resistance.  What if had nothing to say?  What if what I had to say was stuff no one cared to read?  What if I get too ‘naked’ in my writing and exposed things I would rather have hidden?

These are all legitimate concerns.  They are legitimate because writing is scary.  If we write with any depth we will expose ourselves, our fears our weaknesses our hopes our sins.

And we might get rejected.

And we will get rejected.

The thing about writing, or music or art or acting or dance, is we do expose our selves.  With writing we put our guts out there on the table and ask others to critique to accept or reject or not care while all the while we are praying that someone cares, someone wants to know more, someone appreciates a turn of phrase or an insight, observation, or character that we have put down in black and white.

The truth is I wasn’t brave enough years ago to write.  I always had this inner need to become a writer, but so often I would sit and try to write and realize that the only eyes that would see this would be my own because it was either too raw or not worthy enough to share with anyone.  I hesitated to jump in feet first because I could not see where the bottom was.

But in the last decade or so I have had opportunities to write and I did dip my toe in--- with adult ed courses I taught I wrote course books, then I had a Family Life column, then I had some opportunities to write for a broader audience, then I was asked to submit to a competition, then I joined a writers group, then, then, then.

Each step along the way emboldened me to take more steps and drop deeper into that place where writing happens, sometimes whole paragraphs at a time; often, however, one letter at a time.

One of the ironies of writing is that you have to be sensitive enough to tune into the subtleties of life, feel the pain, apprehend the beauty, catch the slight changes of expressions and tone of voice to listen for the real message behind words and actions.  You have to have a thin skin to write.  But you have to have a thick skin to put your work out in the world for an audience, for a publisher, for critics.

As time passes and I become more aware of mortality I wish I had dared to dive in years ago, but the truth is years ago I didn’t have the courage or the perspective to write.  You have to reach a stage of confidence, of not caring whether your parents siblings friends teachers will approve of your writing.   You have to reach a point where you can discern when you’ve gone too far and then the draw the line in a way that makes artistic, psychological and personal sense.

You have to dare.