Everyone in the world can sing. Not everyone can sing well, but everyone has the ability to move their voice up and down in some way, even adding words to go with the melody. Singing isn’t really something new. And yet, only a select few of us will ever sing for another human being. It’s funny how loud and open we can be with a song when we’re in the privacy of our own car, and yet, put us in front of people, and suddenly our pipes freeze up.
This is me. Only a small percentage of the population has ever heard me sing — my kids, my husband, my sisters, and a few lucky people at the karaoke bar after I imbibed in some liquid courage. But really, no one has ever heard me truly belt it out, because I save those diva performances for the walls of my shower room, or when I think no one is looking at me in my car. Let me tell you something, my inner combination of Aretha Franklin, Adele, and Amy Winehouse can wail! And you’ll never hear me sing, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Singing is something I hold close to the vest.
The same could be said of my writing. At one time I wrote for an audience of one. All my poetry, journal entries, short stories, etc. were quietly bound in my notebook, kept there to only be re-read by myself, or written and then forgotten. To have someone look at what I was writing would be like walking down the street naked. I put my whole soul in what I wrote. I didn’t know how to write any other way. I wrote the truth, my truth, and left out nothing. It was how I cleared my head, battled inner demons, worked out problems, cried without tears…
In Breathe, Anna Nalick sang, “If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to…”
But I couldn’t share those words. There were a few times they were taken from me. There was the time when a jealous boyfriend stole my diary and read every single page. There were the crumpled up pieces of truth in my garbage can that my mother found. And there was my Creative Writing class where I was forced to write things down and SHARE. THEM. OUT. LOUD.
This was both terrifying and exhilarating. This wasn’t like writing essays about books that some dead author wrote. This was actually creating a story from the corners of my own mind, and then offering them up to my fellow students who would either eat them up or spit them out.
Needless to say, not one student was horrible when it came to hearing other people’s stories. Everyone was too concerned about their own story to worry about knocking down anyone else. Though I hadn’t completely overcome my fear of sharing my writing, I learned what it felt like to momentarily break down those walls I’d built around me, sharing the little pieces of my soul I’d put down on paper.
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to.
I eventually did let my writing venture into the public eye. I started out with an online diary (which later turned into blogging). I scored a killer job with the newspaper where I got to share my true parenting stories with a small corner of the world. And then in 2013 I published my first book — a venture that led to ten more published books, a few more manuscripts waiting in the wings, and an obsession I can no longer put away.
I was meant to write, and I was meant to share it.
However, there are some serious dangers to sharing your passion with the world, as I soon learned.
The thing about passionate writing is, the words are your babies. Before I share each story I’ve written, I have gone over every single word, working and reworking them until they have reached my level of perfection. And even then, it’s hard to let them go. When I do, it’s like cutting the apron strings and sending my babies off to college. I’ve done my job. I’ve trained them up. I’ve instilled in them all my values and hopes for their future. And then I give them their train ticket, kiss them goodbye, and wave from the platform, hoping against hope that the world doesn’t eat them alive and undo all the love I put into them.
But I’m not in control of how the world receives them. Some of you will receive these words with the same love I had for them when I created them. Others will look at them and see them as the kind of words only a mother could love. Some won’t get them. Some will. Some will hope there are more words to follow. Others, not so much.
To share something you are passionate about with the world — be it writing, singing, art, or whatever it is that you’re passionate about — you must also develop a thick skin. With the positive feedback (and there will be some out there), there is negative feedback (and there will be much of this, too). And the negative feedback is LOUDER than the positive feedback, no matter how minuscule it is.
My skin is noticeably thicker nowadays then it was when I first started. But I still battle the impulse to throw in the towel when I hear anything less than “I loved it!” when it comes to my writing. If I find out someone didn’t love it, I seriously consider quitting altogether, pulling all my books off virtual bookshelves, and going back to being a nobody with a private journal.
I do this EVERY time.
But the thing is, I can’t quit. Writing is the source of both my sanity and my insanity. It’s the very thing that allows me to breathe, and the very thing that makes me hold my breath. It’s both my fear and my comfort. It’s my Heaven and my hell. It’s the way I divulge the tiny portions of my life that are too private to talk about directly. If I couldn’t write, I would wither into nothing. I truly believe that.
Writing is the source of both my sanity and my insanity.
At this very moment, I am fighting those demons of self-doubt, the ones who are whispering in my ear that I am not good enough or talented enough or special enough, the ones who are telling me that no one wants to read what I have to write, and I should just give up the charade and go back to hiding in the shadows. I am fighting them, and I will never stop fighting them. But I refuse to back down, because, as Anna Nalick sang, If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to…