That’s me standing at the front in the picture above, reading The Arrowhead to the assembled adults at the Shell Lake Public Library.
I also read them excerpts from Anything But Simple, and we had a Q and A afterward. I would post pictures from the Shell Lake Library Facebook page of me with my mouth and hands in odd positions, but my blog platform is giving me grief and refuses to upload anymore photos.
I THINK the presentation went well, because they seemed interested and laughed a lot, which is always reassuring. But I visited alone, and had no one to ask afterward, “Did I sound too stupid or too confused? Did that make sense, what I said? Do you think I did okay?” No one to reassure me (even if I had been mediocre), that I had been wonderful.
Being an author terrifies me. I wonder if this always happens with dreams come true: you look at that dream afterward and it is huge and life-changing and comes with a unique, cratered face of its own that you could never have foreseen; and you wonder how on earth you created this Frankenstein and why.
I love being an author when I feel smart, or creative, or professional, which is once in a while. I still love being an author when I feel stupid, or terrified, or clueless, or awe struck, which is also once in a while. And I even love being an author when I feel overwhelmed and exposed, which is pretty much all the time.
I have to like being an author because I worked at it so hard and for so long, but all the same, I look at myself sometimes and shake my head. WHY do I do it?
I never, ever imagined, when I was a shy young girl with a great big smile, glasses that were always falling down, and wispy brown hair with a covering perched on top, that of all my friends, I would be the one to open my mouth and spill my guts to the world. And I wonder where I get the courage or stupidity or lack of perception or whatever it is that compels me to talk.
The thing is, I live in a small community. There are a limited number of people within my scope. And I write not only about myself but about some of those people. And I didn’t quite realize beforehand—even though I KNEW—that every one of those people would probably read what I wrote about them.
You don’t quite realize that when you’re sitting alone in your bedroom creating art.
You don’t quite realize that you will have to meet them or their loved one afterward, and that you will wonder what they thought about what you said, wonder if they are offended, bemused, hurt, happy. You don’t realize that you probably won’t have the chance to explain, privately, “Well, I was was only writing from a specific time in my life about a specific impression which may not even be accurate. I know, and you know, that what I thought during a limited time in my life is only that: what I thought. It is not the big picture of who you are.”
That’s the thing about memoir—you don’t necessarily write truth, because you don’t necessarily have truth. Instead you work with what you have, and that is perception. And you write your perceptions, not for some narcissistic purpose, but for the sake of exploring what you are and what other people are and, by extension, what life is. You do this in the hope that your own tiny, honestly-given perceptions will reveal a sliver of greater truth. Because Truth, you know, and everyone knows, is so big it can’t all be revealed in one book, or in one lifetime.
And that is all.
P.S. If you haven’t already entered your name in the drawing to win a copy of Dorcas Smucker’s Fragrant Whiffs of Joy, you have one more day. Check out last week’s post to read my review and enter your name. The drawing ends tomorrow, and the winner will be announced December 1st.