I’m going a little bit off topic here, but I can do that; it’s my blog. Don’t worry, we’ll get back on schedule with history and music tomorrow. I’ve already cleared 5 hours of writing time tomorrow with my coparent (ie husband). But something has happened today which takes precedence in my life and has knocked my writing schedule off kilter. Namely, an excerpt of my babyloss memoir was picked up by an online magazine, Mutha Magazine, has been shared and tweeted and retweeted hundreds of times, and I now seem to have gone “public” on something I wrote under a pseudonym. And it’s bringing up all kinds of uncomfortable feelings.
I am living in Andalusia in Spain right now, near a town called Ronda where both Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles spent time and were inspired. Hemingway said something about writing – that it was easy – “all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed.” And that’s sort of how I’m feeling right now – like I’ve just bled all over myself.
But at the same time, that’s what this whole “art” thing is, isn’t it? It’s putting yourself out there, dealing with all the nonsense and the few negative reviews, and the embarrassment of your mom posting the one sole comment on the magazine page (and then feeling like a bratty 16 year old when your first reaction is, “mo-om, why do parents have no concept of Internet Etiquette?”) in order to get comments like this: “Although I knew what this book was about from the title, the emotions that this book left me with was staggering and it has kept me thinking about it long after I had finished it.” Or when Dr. Jessica Zucker, a leading speaker on miscarriage and stillbirth tweets, “Wow! Such an important + powerful piece on loss + love.”
You know, the good stuff of knowing that the words you wrote, sitting in the dark at your computer fueled by caffeine late at night have made a difference to some complete stranger.
So here’s what you (and I) have to do. You (and I) have to decide whether it’s worth bleeding all over ourselves and brave bad reviews, in order to have our words make a difference for somebody we don’t even know. And that can only happen when you (and I) open yourself up and show us what’s inside you, even ifit’s ugly, on the off chance that it’s going to be exactly the one thing that somebody needs at the exact time in their life when they need it.
You have no idea all the things going through my head right now. “I shouldn’t have put it on facebook.” “Now everyone will know all the things about myself that I try to hide.” “Now everyone will see my demons.” “Now everyone will know I swear like a trucker.”
I’m going to go to bed soon, and in the morning I can guarantee you that I will be completely afraid to look at my phone and see the various notifications. I feel vulnerable and exposed, and it’s not comfortable.
But I am pretty sure that this is what it’s like to be an artist. I’m pretty sure that there are people who are reading my words who could have written very similar ones themselves and didn’t, because they didn’t want to be exposed. I’m pretty sure that the flip side of this vulnerability is the exhilaration of knowing that, even if I died tomorrow, I’ve written something down and put it out there that will last, and will make a difference to at least one other person.
It’s a roller coaster experience – nauseating, scary, frightening, and it might make you puke. But at the end, you want to go again. And again.
This life – a life of making art, and exposing myself in the hopes that it matters to someone, and being all “out there” and vulnerable – this is the life I have chosen for myself. And now that it’s all out there, there’s no going back now.
I feel a need to both fasten my seatbelt, and take a nap.
We’ll get back on schedule tomorrow. Thanks for this interlude. And for letting me share.