The following is actually one of my journal entries from today. It’s a bit more sporadic and raw than what I usually share with you, but I found it fitting.
I want to write and make people feel. Feeling happy would be good, but I just want them to feel.
I want them to feel like I felt this morning when I finished Shades of Gray (Jessica James). I enjoyed the historical fiction. I enjoyed the romance. It was well-written. I don’t know if it was good, but I know I liked it. I couldn’t put it down. I want to help people feel like I feel after I reread Wild Seed (Octavia Butler) or Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) or Passing (Nella Larsen). I want people to want to reread what I wrote, so they can revive their initial experiences and cultivate new ones, like I have done with way too many books to count.
I think I’m an historical fiction writer.
I can’t believe I wrote “I want to write” or that “I’m a…writer” or that I wrote “an historical.”
I’m pretty sure I just turned some sort of corner.
But what about the NaNoWriMo text I’ve been avoiding for 2 weeks?
I don’t see a problem with writing both fiction and academic texts. I see a problem with making myself sit down to write.
Let me not downplay what Jessica James did. She made me see a Confederate soldier as an honorable and righteous person. She made the enemy a person to me. I almost wanted the South to win. Just kidding, but I was rooting for him and his followers, and I wanted nothing but joy and light for him by the end. James accomplished a lot. In me. And she doesn’t even know me.
I want to write so people can’t separate their emotions from those of the characters like I could not when I read Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffeneger), and I want people to let their minds be blown like mine was when I read Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood). I want to write so that people recognize that entire worlds coexist with their own, even if they don’t know it, like I did when I read The Godfather (Mario Puzo).
I want to help people see God and spiritual warfare in new ways like I did when I read This Present Darkness (Frank E. Peretti) and Names of God (Lester Sumrall). I want to help people see life in a new way like I did after rereading To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I want people to feel sorrow and the unexpected like I did when I read A Death in the Family (James Agee).
I want to write so people can feel the breadth and depth of saga like I did when I read Tai-Pan (James Clavell) and the Hemingses of Monticello (an intense, dense, and fantastic nonfiction tome by Annette Gordon-Reed).
I want people to learn, like I do every time I read an article or an education book, or a writing book, or some other nonfiction work. I also want people to learn from reading my fiction, like I do with every novel I pick up.
I want to write about God and women and history and education and writing and black people and all of the ways these areas intersect
I want to create and grow and share and chronicle and experience for myself and live vicariously.
I think I want to write.
I also think I’m afraid. I don’t know how to write to accomplish any of those things, and if I ever learn, I’m pretty sure it will take the rest of my life. I’m afraid to let myself bleed on the page and be vulnerable and let people see the manifestations of the crazed and intimate and funny and raunchy and absurd and trite and tender things that go on inside of my head.
I think that’s the crux of it. I’m afraid to write, because I’m afraid people will get to know me. Writing is so intimate. The thought of putting my thoughts down is like the thought of letting someone into my marriage. It doesn’t get more personal, more sacred than that. That’s terrifying. What if they’re shocked? Disgusted? Or worse. What if they want more of me and I don’t have it in me to give? What if I fail? Or goodness! What if I succeed?
But it’s silly to not write simply because of fear. I think I am beginning to fear more what will happen if I don’t write than what will happen if I do.
I think I want to write.