For decades I’ve been absolutely confident about my writing life. And this is irrespective of thousands of rejections over the course of those many years. Not to mention the lack of love when I asked for constructive criticism and/or feedback from those I’d known who enjoyed reading, and read a lot.
But now, having had two novels published under one of the largest trade publishers, I’ve never felt so insecure; especially as a writer. Every striving writer undoubtedly has various skills that they struggle with over the course of their writing life. I am fully aware of two: influencing and inspiring the reader. Since I penned my first novel, I had this deep-seated hope, once someone read the blood, sweat and tears I poured on to the page they’d respond with, OMG! I’ve accepted–or is it having come to terms with?–I will not elicit OMG! from a reader.
When someone shared with me that they had read a book and was moved by something the writer wrote, and in particular, how they wrote, I felt a kind of visceral awe and envy of that writer’s talent. A certain incident comes to mind. Last year, someone shared with me that they were stirred by a book they’d just finished, and this person read some of the writer’s prose to me so as to highlight their point. The paragraph that was read showed off both the integrity and intimacy this particular writer had with the written word.
This person, who highly complimented the writer, has read a lot of what I’ve written over the years; still, not once has this person said anything remotely about my writing being engaging; certainly nothing about being stirred. Writings that this person read of mine were critiqued with limited words such as, “good” or I “enjoyed it.” Yet, not once did this person go into detail as to why it was “good,” or to offer why they “enjoyed it.”
And so, it has finally struck me exactly why I’ve pondered tenaciously over the past decade whether the stories I write are relatable. It’s not a question of whether I can write; I know that I am a skilled writer. But this is what I have come to understand: not every writer is meant to be a fiction storyteller. And despite it resonating in my soul that storytelling is something my life has persuaded me to pursue, I still doubt.
I trust that every journey has purpose; therefore, I consciously make an effort to honor the writing path I have taken. And equally so, recognize some of the growth from having taken such a rich and bold journey. Over the past few years, I’ve put a lot of effort into working on this annoying obsession and insecurity: the idea of not influencing–or at least inspiring–the reader.
Interestingly enough, something quite striking occurred a few days ago.
Scrolling through e-mail rather fleetingly, something in a re line caught my eye. After opening it, I perused it casually. I discovered that the e-mail was from a reader of one of my novels. This is what the e-mail revealed to me: the inspiration to read Vulnerable was based upon the central story line having taken place in Seattle. One of the members of the book club of eight women from the Atlanta area had heard about my novel and suggested the book club read it. Each year they choose a vacation spot based upon a locale that was in a book they read the previous year. I like this concept, by the way.
My eyes became glossy as I read the humorous details from their trip: a visit to the Space Needle, and riding on the Ferris wheel. Taking ferries to various islands with the hope of identifying the fictional “Crescent Island”–a geographical setting in the novel. To having lunch at the Library Bistro; people-watching over coffee at the notable Elliott Bay Books on Capitol Hill; and attending a wine tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle.
By the end of the e-mail, I was LOLing and blotting my eyes. I found myself feeling a much-needed sense of validation, and the timing was apropos. While the love in my heart was fleeting; still, I was transformed by their Seattle holiday, and especially since Vulnerable inspired a kind of scavenger hunt for the ladies, as well as a tour guide. But most importantly, these women took the time to share their experience with me.