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An Ode to Writers Who Write to Hide… and Heal in the Process

You can heal along the way.

Photo by Milos Tonchevski 

FEAR is what has prevented me from writing my story up until now. I am saying no more. No more fear, no more holding myself back from the unknown. I don’t know what will happen if I share my story. A million scenarios jockey for position in my imagination and every single one feels like a real threat.

If I write the book I want to write, it will blow up my life. Everyone will KNOW. Everyone will know me. Everyone will know my story. When they see me, they will see me through the eyes of my trauma. They will see what I’ve experienced, that person I was 15, 20, 25 years ago, not the stand-up teacher and mother of three who now leads Creative Writing workshops and teaches internet safety lessons to their children. They will see the broken me, the one less often portrayed in public.

What do you do when the words you type squeeze your heart so tight you can’t even speak them aloud, let alone tell the world? What then? How do I write that book? I’ve avoided it for decades, the telling of my story. It haunts me. Not even what happened, but the fact that no one really knows about it. They only see the ‘successful’ SuperMom and my positive smiley Facebook posts. I’ve never lifted the curtain to show what’s lurking in the dark. The backstory. How I got here.

But THAT’S the story that haunts me. I try to shroud it in fiction, ‘based on a true story’ B.S., but it’s MY story either way: birthed from my experiences or from my mind. I will be exposing myself if I write this story. 

Does this sound familiar? Is this you, too?  

Needless to say, my book is difficult to write. I’ve allowed my mind to stall me from truly getting started for years!  However, this is the season that I choose to heal in the light and offer 5 reminders to writers who decide to lean in to their bravery, and join me. 

Photo by Andrew Neel

Just do it-scared.

 ‘A poem or essay?’ I began writing the opening scene to my book three years ago ensconced in the magic of Rivendell’s Writer Colony, but I left my muse there.

The story sat collecting microscopic dust in a file locked inside my laptop, all the while being written and rewritten hundreds of times in my head. The words never made it to paper or print. This week when Rivendell announced the decision to permanently close their doors to writers, had I not recently started allowing the words to flow again they may have been lost forever in bluffs and valleys of Sewanee, Tennessee.

Give yourself a deadline. 

After a decade of debating, ‘Do I want to write realistic fiction or a blog? 21 days ago, I forced myself to pick back up the dream of writing a book. If supposedly 82% of adults dream of writing a book, why is it so hard to start one, let alone develop the consistency to finish? When I signed up last month for the Evolved Teachers and Changemakers #30DayAuthor challenge, of course I was terrified. I practically had to be talked into it by my kids, who when asked for their sound advice (and agreement to be left alone and uninterrupted every night from 9:00-11:00pm), said things like “Well, duh, you’re a writer, just do it” and “You’re not scared, you’re excited.”

By the end of day two I was writing a very hard chapter and it wasn’t crushing, it was exhilarating. I got in the ‘zone’ and stayed there, letting my message seep into actual words handwritten on a page.

I’m already not as scared.

Consider who else is waiting for you to show up.

The story begs to be told. The news taunts me every day with another story of sexual harassment and abuse. When people started saying #MeToo my first reaction was actually a sarcastic chuckle of hashtag #WhoHasnt!?

I see myself in their stories. I feel their fear and pain. With each uncomfortable moment shared and exposed, I add another brick to the wall of my self-reserve and perseverance. I see my purpose clearly. I know it’s there. I can deny it, excuse it away, waste my own time, numb or drink it away… but it’s there. Always there. My story…

Stay true to you.

I’ve always believed in the charm of a true story, or at least appreciated and enjoyed stories that are told as if. I want my diary to be words to love by. I want readers to not inwardly shrink away in shame when their story mirrors mine, but celebrate the bravery, courage, vulnerability waiting to be expressed in us all.

If writers can be anything, why would one choose to be themselves? I could cover my canvas with new hues, hide the flaws, and find a new future in my faults. Who really chooses to be themselves with pen in hand?

It’s still there. Always.  A never ending audible story read in my voice and I want to change the ending. I want to tell the girl, “No don’t go there! Don’t pick up the phone. DEFINITELY don’t get in that car.” But, instead of changing it, I share it. Because it’s someone else’s story, too. 

Let your message guide you.

If I have a message to share, it really doesn’t matter if my book is shelved in the fiction or autobiography section. Allowing an idea to be expressed, then transcribing the message to be released out it into the world for whoever the lesson was intended for is the requirement for the gift I’ve been given. What happens beyond that is… beyond my control. Maybe then I will be free from the never-ending nightmare highlight reel that still robs me of sleep at night and sickens my stomach when triggered.

What’s the worst that can happen? People know. They see the real feelings behind my actions, they know the dark places that haunt my memories and see how someone like me can be so… the way I am.  And that, my dear writer, is the light. It finally shines on who we are, allowing us to truly show our faces and be seen.  It’s great to see you here in the light. You’re beautiful. Welcome home.

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