Broken (#2): Five Minute Friday

Five Minute FridaySometimes it seems that all of life is a conspiracy. Like when you just live for writing in community on Fridays but cannot stomach the thought of linking up in the very public world of Facebook. Lisa-Jo’s flash mob of writing for five minutes, no editing, no over-thinking, is the light at the end of the workweek tunnel and now I have to decide if the broken bits of me that keep my blog in hiding are brave enough to brave Facebook. If you love to write, or don’t but think it might help, check out the rules and join us.

I stopped writing when I was 19. A few short blocks away from the best pizza on the East Coast, a few short miles from the Connecticut River, a few short yards away from registering for writing class with Annie Dillard my freshman year of college. Regardless of any previous writing or publishing or being noticed, I stopped cold turkey and never looked back. Until now.

That mustard seed of fear grew into a tree large enough to shadow a decade of life. The fear of not knowing if I was good enough drove me to choose Russian literature and Calculus 2. (I wasn’t actually good enough for Calculus 2. That’s why I went for a liberal arts school, I had temporarily amnesia during registration.) I never examined the good enough question (Good enough for whom? And how are we measuring this? Who is the final judge? Good questions, I just didn’t ask them.).

I didn’t write for a decade. Sure, I wrote letters. My best friend informed me that I sent novellas rather than emails and elected to call me across eight time zones rather than scroll down that long. But in truth the broken bits inside of me that smarted from correction and rejection just refused to be held up to the light. So I shut up.

And today, after I thought I demolished that fear-tree in January with the simple click of WordPress publish button, those broken bits that bade me quiet starting shouting me down again. Lisa-Jo’s website is down so if I join in on this lovely Friday, I have to do it on Facebook? Where people who actually know me might see it? Where people who actually know me might ignore it? Or criticize it? Or roll their eyes and agree that I’m not good enough? Not a big deal—I’ll just miss a week and write with you lovely ladies again in seven days. Some of you have even given me the confidence-bolstering compliment of following me—so someone will read the post.

Or I can tell the anxious, broken part of me that it will be fine. That nothing I write will ever be mentioned in the same sentence as “published” again except when I click it but that doesn’t mean my voice has to hide. That brokenness doesn’t have to mean silence.

Did my timer really just ring?

Fourth Grade Flashbacks

Flashback to the fourth grade. The year that Mrs. Lucey died and Mrs. Dexter took her place but none of it mattered because I was in the tall and willowy Ms. Anthony’s class while my best friend learned down the hall. The year we had math together with Mrs. Gillis, a firecracker of a teacher who actually threw a wet sponge at a student and caught him—splosh—right in the face. I have no recollection of his trespass but I can’t forget the noise of that sponge making contact. The year I wrote my first book and mailed it off to an editor with Ms. Anthony’s help.

Laboring over that story of Mr. Merman and his friend Lobster (and yes, it was before Disney’s The Little Mermaid and a century and a half after Hans Christian Andersen’s original). Pecking away at the Apple IIGS keyboard in the corner of the guestroom. My mother helping me type. Printing from the dot matrix printer and tearing off the sides of the continuous feed paper. Addressing and sealing the manila envelope, headed straight from Small Town, Connecticut to New York, NY. The feelings are forgotten. Was I certain of my creative brilliance? Nervous about a response? Even aware of what it meant to submit a piece of writing?

The tender rejection letter was crafted carefully, with encouraging words, written by a kind editor who had mercy on a fourth-grader. Today I remember this because I just submitted a query for an article and I’m certain that while a rejection letter may follow, no tender editor will write me back. I’m no longer 9 and writing in blue ink on my dad’s dot matrix printer. Which translates to no kindness headed my way.

I know better now, what it means to bare my soul in writing. If the piece were in a manila envelope at the end of my driveway, I would have snatched it back already but I hit “send” and my options are gone. In all likelihood, I won’t hear anything and that wound smarts more than the rejection.

I don’t write to be published. I don’t write to be read. I write to write. May I remember that today.