I am a writer.
As silly as it may sound, that was a really hard sentence for me to type. Like excruciatingly, maddeningly, I-had-to-force-myself-to-type-it-one-letter-at-a-time hard. Why? Why is that something I love to do, something that feels so right – how can that be so damn difficult for me and so damn difficult to own for myself?
When I was 14, I fancied myself a writer. I had always loved writing and making up stories as a child but I thought of myself as more of a reader than a writer. And one day that changed. My freshman english teacher gave us a story that ended halfway through the story. We had to write an ending to it. And boy did I – I wrote the shit out of that ending. My ending was BRILLIANT if I do say so myself. It was inventive and had a cool twist and I just knew it was made of awesome. And that felt so good. To see it all there on paper and know that I HAD WRITTEN THAT! It felt even better the next day when my teacher read my ending out loud to the whole class and said “You see that people – that’s what I want you to do – that’s how I want you to write”. I was so proud that my heart nearly burst.
My reading and my writing saved me in high school. When my non-existent study habits and my undiagnosed learning disability threatened to land me up Shit Creek, I grabbed on to my pen and wrote my way out of it. I once won an award at a state Academic Decathlon competition in the essay division on a subject I knew almost nothing about – to this day I’m both so proud and so ashamed of that. Writing was the log that I grabbed onto in the river of uncertainty that I swam in. Going back through my journals from that time is painful but also heart-warming. I was miserable but I also had a certainty and a sureness that I feel like I lack now – a sureness that I was made for something better and that I had something to offer the world.
So what happened? I got to college and sank – weighed down by my own insecurities. Frustrated by the way I constantly set myself up for failure. Caught up in the way other people defined me. You know – the usual.
Later on, I worked with people who thought of themselves as writers and listened to them when they told me that they would stick to their strengths and I should stick to mine – whatever they were. I let those people grab the mantle of “Writer” and I never grabbed it for myself.
Where did the feeling of pride that I felt as a 14 year old go? Where did that confidence go? What stops me now?
Part of it is the fact that in my mind it seemed egotistical to think of myself as writer because the writers I admire are so talented. How dare I think of myself in the same category as them? Part of it is that as long as I don’t write, I don’t have to face the fact that I might not be able to do this, that it might be a dream I have to give up. As long as my thoughts aren’t down on paper, what I have to write is still good in my head.
A huge part of what stops me is that because of my job, I’ve been eviscerated on the internet several times over the last ten years and it’s not something I want to open myself up to again. It’s a horrible thing to live through – to be lied about and be the target of mean girl games played out in a public sphere. I don’t have a thick skin and I don’t want to have a thick skin – being sensitive is a big part of what makes me, me. But I have to find a way to protect myself because I’ve let that burn me out in so many facets of my life. I’ve let that silence my voice. I’ve stayed safe. The most rewarding things in my life have been when I’ve jumped off that cliff. I built a business off a cliff jump. Some of my best friends are from jumping off that cliff. I met the love of my life by doing a big, old belly flop off that cliff and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m sick of standing on that cliff wondering what could happen. I’m sick of not jumping into life with a whole heart. That doesn’t mean I’m going to share every private detail of my life. It does mean that I’m going to quit playing it safe all the time.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that a lot of the times, I feel like I’m not talented enough to do this. And you know what? Right now, I’m not talented enough but I never will be talented enough unless I force myself to write. To quote Anne Lamott, I have a lot of shitty first drafts in me and I need to get them out. Because it’s only writing those shitty first drafts that are going to lead me to anything else – whatever that might be.
Part of the reason I changed my blog name from TNLocavore.com to MouthFromTheSouth.com is that I wanted to write about more than just food. I love food blogging, I really do. But doing a recipe post takes a lot of time, between testing different recipes, taking pictures, tweaking those pictures and writing it all up. I don’t post a recipe if I don’t LOVE it and there are times when I just don’t have the time to keep trying recipe after recipe, looking for the one I want to share. I also feel like there’s so much more going on in my life than just food. I love to cook but I don’t live to cook. There’s so much more to me. I want to share stories about the house we’re renovating. I want to share stories about my life and the craziness that seems to often be a part of it. I want to make you vomit because I’m sharing yet another dumb story about our cats. I want to bore you all with talk about my incendiary love affair with heirloom tomatoes. I want to ask for advice and hear your stories. I want to share and hear all of this stuff even if it doesn’t have anything to do with food. Don’t get me wrong – I have a passion for food so I’ll still be writing about it regularly. But I want to share my other passions with you as well and hear about yours.
In the end, it really comes down to one thing, writers write. And I’m writing. So I am a writer.