“I keep on going with this limping and mutilated story because I want you to hear it, as I will hear yours too if I ever get the chance, if I meet you …. By telling you anything at all, I’m believing in you. I believe you into being. Because I’m telling you this story, I will your existence. I tell, therefore you are.” –The Handmaid’s Tale
I’m struggling to find the courage to write for a public reader. Every day I’m journaling, scribbling notes, typing scruffy half-drafts, organizing themes and concepts, muscling against the press of my own inhibitions. My writing is too sentimental, too cliche, too clumsy. That same story has been told to death by writers far more accomplished than I. I can’t say that because it will hurt/offend/betray someone. I’m limbing my creative self in the service of the many stifling voices vying for airtime my head.
I know I have stories to tell and a drive to tell them. I grew up in a religious community that placed value on vocation, a calling from outside oneself that directs one’s life choices. And, much as I prefer habits of solitude and privacy to the overstimulation I feel in social situations, there is some instinct within me to connect with people of like minds. There is in my brain a central processing unit that is constantly converting my lived experiences into stories. If you’re a close enough friend to talk with me one-on-one, you know this storytelling habit of mine. In fact, my Grade 6 teacher gave me a year-end present, a novel, because of my tendency to “write looooong stories for answers to test questions.” Vocation, see.
I don’t have a concise answer for why I feel stifled in my writing. My pretend therapist and I have come up with many possible sources of my inhibition, and I’m always working on strategies to overcome it, ways of tricking myself into easing out of my shyness. My most trusted teacher reassures me that my lack of eagerness to put my writing out into the world might be a healthy function of my development as a writer. I take this as a reassurance that I am still among the fellowship of vocational writers, despite my lack of public productivity.
Today, I have a new idea. What if I scale back my social media engagement, which has become the fuel to my insecurity fire, and instead I write to my Fantasy Reader without sharing to my social media feeds? I post to my blog from time to time, in the silent faith that my Fantasy Reader is out there waiting for me to show up. Rather than writing to satisfy my inner critic, I am writing to connect with someone much kinder than the curmudgeons in my head. She is not judging me for what I am saying to the world, not critiquing my writing style, not deciding whether my work is worthy of a public audience. My fantasy reader is a kindred spirit who is happy to hear from me, relieved to know that she is not alone in her experience of the world.
So, dear Fantasy Reader, welcome. Let me tell you my limping story. And, if I ever get the chance, I’ll listen to yours too.