I have finished this year’s NaNoWriMo feeling, as I do every year, that I have created something that is both impressive and completely horrifying. Impressive in that I committed to writing 50,000 words in one month and actually accomplished that feat. Completely horrifying in that I do not believe it is publishable and therefore it must be hidden.
Something about writing brings out the worst sort of hoarder in me. I have thought about joining writing critique groups, but the idea of asking other people to read what I have written and provide feedback terrifies me. It does not seem like an even exchange, I think, for someone else to have to trundle through my writing. And so I avoid doing the exact thing that a person should do with stories: share them. I started this blog as a small step towards facing that problem, but I find that I post sporadically, and then only after a lot of hesitation and obsessive editing.
Lately, I have been reading a lot of books about asking for things, when you need them, and about being willing to deal with rejection. I do not generally read a lot of non-fiction, which makes this reading binge unusual for me. After reading Amanda Palmer’s brilliant ode to The Art of Asking, I have been reading a lot more of what is called pop psych, or popular psychology, which mixes research with anecdotes. The anecdotes have shown that many people have a problem with asking and fear rejection. Knowing that it is not something I am alone in has helped, but only so much.
I think I read in one of those books, I cannot remember which, that storytelling is a basic human need, one thousands of years old that pre-dates many other human traditions. We created language so that we could communicate, and we created stories so that we could connect. Ironically, storytelling has been one of those things that has been the opposite of connect for me. I have been so focused on the idea that what I have written is not good enough that I have kept it locked away in the attic of who I am. I suppose that feeling of not being good enough can be expanded to many other areas of my life, but writing has been a tough one for me.
Why, then, do I continue to write? I asked myself that question when I had completed this year’s NaNoWriMo. It seems like writing is one of those things that I am compelled to do no matter what. But what is the point of telling stories no one else will hear? I now have ten completed 50,000 word manuscripts that I have written for NaNoWriMo, and instead of revising, instead of editing, instead of finding a group of fellow writers to read and write with, I hide them. In my day-to-day life, I have allowed that part of me, the part of me that is a writer, to be hidden from friends and family and colleagues. This year, I decided, I am going to try to find a critique group. I am going to tell my story.