Without a doubt, it’s me. I want to be a better writer and I respect my teacher who doggedly pursued his profession from non-fiction magazine writer to fiction author–it was a tough climb from the way he tells it. He learned a lot along the way and he takes his teaching seriously. His dedication is unquestionable. He reads everything we write closely and gives specific, personalized feedback. And the feedback is uncomfortably spot-on, to the point where you’re saying “Goddammit, I really did accidentally switch POV here!” Even so, it’s not him I’m afraid of.
I’ve always been protective and secretive about my fiction. I find my stories embarrassing and I find my rendering of them even more embarrassing. Why? My stories aren’t any more outlandish than others. My style could still use polish to elevate it, but right now it’s serviceable for mainstream or genre fiction.
I think this is partially linked to my fear of picking out the books I wanted from the library when I was a tween. I fell in love with The Hobbit and there was no looking back. But there was my mother not directly saying anything, but obviously disapproving of my taste, the way she grudgingly humored my father’s collection of vintage ’50’s and ’60’s sci-fi. In a crushing dose of irony, she read romance novels. As an adult, it boggles my mind.
I also wonder how much of my secretiveness is inborn. My daughter is secretive, even though we’ve never invaded her privacy. She’s high-functioning autistic and needs her time alone with her music and she needs to maintain control of her bedroom fiefdom. That means parents are strictly forbidden. She locks the privacy lock every time she goes in her room and squeezes out like a snake exiting an impossibly small crack, pressing her back to the doorjamb and pulling the door tight against her front. I wish she wouldn’t do it; it’s hurtful that she doesn’t trust us but there’s a very real possibility that it’s not about us at all. Just like my embarrassment may not be due to my mother’s aversion to elves and dragons.
Where does this leave me? People ask what my genre is and I can’t really peg it. I’ve got 600,000 words in genre limbo. When people ask me to summarize my book, I can’t because I’m afraid it will sound stupid with all of the subtlety taken out. I wrote for a long time as a way to control my bipolar mood swings–a vacation from my own moods into my characters, an externalizing of what I was feeling. Am I embarrassed about what I needed to write during my bipolar? I don’t know.
Regardless, I’m going to have to dig up two scenes for workshopping. Some commitments you just can’t wiggle out of. I owe my classmates the chance to become better readers and writers by workshopping my writing, because we all have different strengths and weaknesses. That’s part of the requirements of the class and even though there’s no grading and no real consequences, I still feel that the stakes are incredibly high.
How do I get out from under this anvil of embarrassment? Frankly, I don’t know. I can’t even self-publish unless I have some degree of confidence. It all comes down to who and what I’m afraid of. I haven’t figured that out yet. All I know for sure is that I need to figure it out before I spend all of our savings on writing classes.