I’m one of those humans who doesn’t give myself enough credit. I like to mention my mentors, the people who make me feel like my work is worthy. The people who’ve helped me become a better writer or who helped me believe more in my writing skills.
I don’t think of myself as a mentor, as a support cushion for others. I think of myself as lost in the desert, seeking water. Seeking approval.
When I have a reading, I invite everyone in a blanketed way. On Facebook. On my blog. Maybe on Instagram. I rarely ask my husband to come. In fact, appearing that vulnerable with my own personal writing in front of my husband? Weirdly, it’s easier to not have him there. Someone joked that maybe he’d interject, “Hey! That’s not how it happened!”
That’s how it is when you write about your real life. I know my writing is only my interpretation of what happened. And while I know in some way that my writing can help people, I’m shielded from that. As a human, I’m shielded from the truest reason for why I write: so people feel less alone in this hard journey. Even as I write to help myself feel better, I only publish it to feel seen and in hopes that others feel less alone.
And sometimes I hear from people. Yet it’s rare. That’s why reading in public is such a rare treat. A rare, difficult treat. I invite people in a blanket way. I don’t tell my husband he has to be there. It’s actually easier to read in front of mostly strangers. At my latest reading, the people who showed up for me were my co-workers at the bookstore. It was lovely to have them there. It was hard to look them in the eye. It was hard to put my real feelings out there in real time. It’s easier to put them on the blog or in a magazine. Even as I crave human connection: the yes, me too, I heard your words and life is hard for me, too.
I’m writing this blog because I read my friend’s blog about her reading and she wrote how important is was to have her family there, how she was sad that some of her family lives out of state. I thought: how brave, or is it different because she writes fiction? Nah, she lives within her fiction, too. It’s hard to be vulnerable on stage.
Yet I know I came here to be seen. Not in a praise me kind of way, but in that human connection way. I strive to let my daughters know that I see them and I like/love all the parts of them.
I read my words on stage. I almost cried on stage. I read an essay that I haven’t published yet. I read about leaving the land of childhood behind, about the very real moment of where I am right now in parenting, and the audience held me up on that moment. Here we are, where I am witnessing a huge transition, and everyone is here with me and we are breathing in and out.
Breathing with me.
Take the scent of sleeping baby with you to remind you of where you came from.
Take that feeling of the audience with you: the feeling that says, keep writing. It’s worth it even though you sit alone in your office and pound out your thoughts.
Ah: the reading. The picture is from my reading and I can see right there the author me: that’s who I wanted to be when I was in elementary school. I’m her. Hello: author. Hello.