I’ve always been a private sort of writer. I prefer the writing I do to be “not about me.” I write other people’s topics, because I’m a writer who is usually commissioned. Sometimes, my name’s not even on what I write—someone else’s name is, because the work is ghostwritten. And in the past, I’ve preferred it that way. When something personal creeps into my writing, it’s usually well-disguised. A person close to me died many years ago. I didn’t do much writing about this death. But in one of my novels, I found myself writing the death scene of a young, beloved horse. The scene spilled out of me as I was writing it. My throat was tight. I was writing about my family member, of course. Just in horse form.
Early in my residency, I spoke about a personal story I’d begun and had been unable to finish. Partly this is because writing is hard. Partly this is because I have a lot of other deadlines to meet. But mostly this is because the story is intensely personal and I’m scared of showing it to people. And if I finish it, I’ll have to show it. I mean, I do want to see it published—I guess.
What I’m really writing about in this post is fear. Writing down the scary stuff. Then showing it to people. Turning yourself inside out and letting people look. It’s embarrassing. But whenever I read something like that from a writer—where I can tell the writer is being real with me, not showing off, not cloaking herself in fancy language, but just talking to me real—I feel happy and comforted. And glad I’m reading her piece. And in the end, I feel closer to that writer. So maybe, if I finish this thorny, uncomfortable piece, I can bring a little of that feeling to whomever might read it.