I stopped by a local bookstore today with my list. Sometimes when I go into a bookstore, instead of feeling at home, I feel kind of lost and needy. It might be because I want to buy ALL the books; but probably it’s because I feel like I need to make excuses for the extravagance of my purchases. I also sometimes feel like I should explain why I’ve chosen the books I’ve chosen. Which is ridiculous, because anyone who works in this field is very likely in the same boat as I am with regard to books.
Today, however, I was focused. I needed a copy of Carrie Brownstein’s, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Woman, for book club. I also found Carsick by John Waters and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I struck out on finding a used copy of The Artist’s Way; but made up for it by finding The Elements of Style, Bird by Bird, and In the Palm of Your Hand all in the used book section.
The bookseller that helped me was a really nice older gentleman. He seemed delighted that I was buying so many books although half of them were used. When I admitted to being in the book industry too, we laughed about our shared experience of customers that asked for the nebulous blue book. No author, no title, just a blue book about history, religion, relationships – take your pick. It was fun and made me miss just a little bit, when I worked in a bookstore too. We also talked about the books I had selected; and I found myself telling him that I had decided that I wanted to try to write.
He smiled and said that he had tried for years to write fiction. He told me writing for him was an utter flop. When he read his words back to himself he couldn’t stand the way they sounded. He said the words made him cringe and he KNEW no one else should ever read them.
He told me he thought writing was a good thing. Definitely do it, try it out. “See if you have something.” I told him that I was writing stories about my family, a blend of journaling and memoir. I explained that when I re-read the stories I had so far, that they felt comforting to me. Then another guy in the store chimed in about wanting to write and how he got started. Talking to strangers about this sort of secret I’ve been carrying around was a relief but it was exciting too. The whole way home I kept replaying the brief conversation.
I’m going to try to do this thing. This writing thing. I’m going to try to get better at it. I’ll ask the questions and listen to advice that’s offered. I will be diligent with my practice. I will attempt to develop a thick skin. I’ll tell people what I’m doing. Will I be a writer? I don’t know. I do know I can write the stories that are in me. Whether there is value to anyone but me remains to be seen. The time for telling myself I have no right to be doing this is over. If I tell my truth, if I write with a clarity I believe in, that is enough.
Telling people I am writing is scary. Letting them read what I have written is scary. Listening to what they say about what I have written is scary. I think I just have to leap and not look.