22 July 2013

The Real Me and You, Kid, We're Gonna Change the World

I read a great article today by Linda Holmes, who works for NPR. Here's the link if you would like to enjoy it as well. It basically emphasizes how important it is to make art in all forms, and to trust yourself as an artist, to have your own vision and work to create that, not just follow the current trend. She also relates how sometimes the most difficult, horrifying moments of our lives can spawn our most important work even if we don't know it at the time.

It was an uplifting, funny article, but it made me think of an experience I had in fifth grade. I was part of an "advanced reading group" who met once a week with the principal to study literature. Near the end of the year he decided we would stage a few scenes from MACBETH. I was one of the witches. At the end of the scene we all moved to the front of the stage to take our bows and I basically pushed Richie, the boy playing Macbeth, out of my way so I could be in the center.

Afterward, every member of my family commented.

"Geez, you practically knocked Richie off the stage."

"Holy cow, you cold-cocked Richie."

"What the heck? You punched Richie."

The truth of the matter is I loved Richie. I pushed him so I could be next to him, which was embarrassing enough, but it was just downright humiliating to have everyone notice, especially because I think they knew I liked him. So, in that moment, I chose to lie. I said he crossed in front of me, that I pushed him because he deserved it, anything to distance myself from the truth. I wasn't going to risk sharing my feelings.

Reading Linda Holmes' article reaffirmed how important honest writing is to me. That may sound a little silly coming from a woman whose genre has an unbreakable "happily ever after" rule. We all know real life doesn't always give us that, which is why I want my writing to be truthful about everything else we feel. I want to share my fear, humiliation, exasperation, wonder, joy, heartbreak, and triumph with you. I want to take the risk so you don't have to, give words to what you're feeling if you don't want to, write the happy ending when you can't see it, make you believe in love because it saved me.

I told my friend, Janet, the story about Richie today. "That's why I'm an addict," I said. "Mortal embarrassment." But that wasn't the reason. It was that my first reaction was to lie. I didn't want to own my feelings. I didn't want to tell the truth. Years later when I got clean and decided to be honest, to share the real me, all good things happened.

Go. Be unafraid. Be the real you. The world is waiting.