I know I have vanished for some time now--over a month! There have been various reasons. Maybe I've been in a little funk. Seattle is so beautiful in the summer but there's this weird pressure that comes with that like: "Make every day count, while there is still sun! Every second you stay inside you are wasting your entire life and squandering nature's beautiful gifts! YOU DON'T DESERVE SEATTLE IN SUMMER!" It's a guilty time for us indoorsy folks. But mostly, I disappeared because I was working on a small writing project (I'll tell you more if anything comes of it) and it was FREAKING ME THE FUCK OUT.
Growing up, teachers always told me I was a skilled writer. I won embarrassing elementary school contests involving poems about France and humorous dinosaur themed essays (both were destroyed long ago, so don't ask). But, over time, I realized that the bar was pretty low. Sure, maybe I had some nascent talent, but I was no prodigy, just precocious. I started to disregard the encouragement, figuring that my family had to compliment me and that public school teachers were just jazzed that I could compose a semi-coherent sentence. I got a few pieces in school papers and lit mags, I volunteered at this teen publication called New Youth Connections (get it? NYC). But, with puberty came this overwhelming feeling that nothing I had to say really mattered. I was so in awe of classmates who actually wanted to read their work in class. I felt like everything I wrote was unimportant and clunky. I don't even have most of my journals from back then because as soon as I put something down on a page, I wanted to rip it up.
Someone once told me this story about my mom's short-lived stint as a middle-school violinist. Mom wasn't musical and probably hated playing, but still practiced dutifully on a daily basis. One day, a neighbor heard my mom and made some dumb joke like "What's that, a dying cat?" Mom put down the violin, went upstairs and never played again. I like to think of her never even touching the violin again or burying it in the back yard quietly.
I feel like I have never related to anyone as much as I do to middle-school mom! I too have a visceral fear of embarrassment (it's why I don't dance or do karaoke without 5 gin and tonics)! But it's even more specific than that, I suppose, it's more like a fear of trying to do something you care about and being bad at it. And if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, it's a fear of having people think you think you are good at something that you are plainly bad at. You know, like on reality show competitions, when a contestant says "I am the best chef here! I'll be the last one standing! Watch out!" and then they present this plate of undercooked chicken or whatever and get sent home immediately. This is the worst possible fate I can think of. Surely there is some German word for this.
I had my violin moment at around 18. My mom was a travel writer and had this friend looking for someone to write cheesy little blurbs for this book she was putting together about "romantic getaways" (gross). I was excited to have something to do aside from drink with my friends so I thought I would give it a try. It seemed like pretty easy work: I just combed through the press material she had given me and synopsized. My mom gave me good feedback and initially, so did my "employer." Then, several weeks in, I met her in midtown and she told me that she couldn't use my stuff, that it wasn't professional enough. I have this vivid memory of weeping my way down the 6th Avenue and ducking into a pay phone kiosk and getting the receiver all slippery with my tears and incoherently wailing at my poor mother who was probably pretty used to calls like that by then (I was a temperamental teen). I later heard that the woman had run out of money for her project, so I like to think that she blew me off to save face. But I'll never really know and at that point, the damage had been done. I took a creative writing class here and there, and live journaled like every self respecting gothy twenty-something, but I gave up any notions of doing anything with my writing aside from shoving it way to the back of my desk drawers.
So putting myself out there for this recent "project" (that sounds really pretentious, but I don't know what else to call it), felt so vulnerable. It seriously took me a month to write one paragraph because I couldn't stop thinking "People might SEE this. Like people I don't know. And they might think things about it. THINGS!" But I guess that's the whole point, right?