Believe it or not, I am a relatively shy person. In grade school, I was the nerdy girl who was always picked last for teams. In middle school, I was the even nerdier girl that all the boys made fun of. In high school, I was ‘that smart cheerleader’ that never quite fit in. In college, I finally came into my own, but that is a different story for a different time. The point is, I was tormented by other people for most of my young life. People can be so mean and children are often changed because of it. I know that I was.
I was always an excellent student, especially in English class. I loved to read books and write book reports, but my true love was creative writing. From poetry to short stories, I loved to put words together to create emotion. One event from sophomore English still stands out in my mind. I had completed a writing assignment as instructed, only to find out that we would be required to read our work out loud to the class. When my turn came, I stuffed my papers in my bag and told the teacher that I hadn’t done the assignment. I was so afraid of what the other students might think, of what they might say, that I was willing to take a zero on the assignment.
To this day, I still have anxiety in social situations. I prefer to go about my day unnoticed. I will often share my thoughts on Facebook, just to delete my posts or comments shortly after. Attention makes me nervous. That said, I would rather stand up in front of a huge group of strangers, than ever have the focus of a small group. It feels as though since I can’t see them, they can’t see me. It’s less personal.
Writing, however, is very personal. As I finish the final edits on my first novel, I spend a lot of time worrying about what will happen once I submit it. What if no one reads it? What if they do? What if no one gets me? What if they hate it? What if they’re cruel? These questions race around my mind in never-ending circles. They are my dragons. I need to be brave. I need to take a stand against them.
Everyone is weird in their own way. There has got to be at least one other person out there with my same particular brand of weird. If people don't read it or like it, then it wasn’t for them. Different strokes for different folks, as it's said. There are people out there that don’t like Nutella. I promise, I’ve met them. You can’t please everybody. I just need to be proud of who I am and all I’ve accomplished for me, not for anyone else.
Which brings me to the issue of censorship. I am the product of a very conservative, Christian upbringing. The way that I was raised, R-rated movies were forbidden, sexual intimacy was reserved for marriage, and harsh language was rewarded with a mouth full of soap. For this reason, I have waffled back and forth about the content in my book. When I began writing Fall of Darkness, I tried to write within the standards of my upbringing, but the dialogue didn’t sound right and the story line didn’t move as well. It just wasn’t as believable. Real people use words that I often wouldn’t. Real people do things that I often wouldn’t. So do my characters, but that’s what makes them feel more real. Life is a rated R movie.
Will I squirm when my parents read my writing, knowing there’s content that they would not approve of? Will I be embarrassed to admit that I authored my work? Yes and no. Censorship is another one of my dragons. I need to be proud of the art that I have created and accept that not everyone will approve. Perhaps I can cheat and take a sharpie to the controversial content in the copies that go to friends and family.
When I began the editing process, I read reviews for books in my same genre to get an idea of common pitfalls . I was horrified at what I found. Even in instances where authors gave their books away for free, readers were impossibly cruel. I think people forget that there is a person on the other end of that book. The writer has dreams and feelings, just as they do. It takes a lot of courage to put pen to paper and share your ideas with the world. I hope that readers can approach my work, and that of any other writer, with that in mind. A lot of time and heart goes into a novel. My heart is written into every single one of those pages. That is my Mac-daddy of dragons.
It is time to take a deep breath and trust the world that has been so cruel in the past. People may hate my writing, but maybe they’ll love it. I just need to be brave enough to not let it matter. It is time to slay my dragons and overcome my fears.