Resistance. Hesitancy. Fear.
There are several topics I’ve tried to steer clear of because they are too painful. Too personal. These topics hold stories I’ve not yet dared to write.
Recently I found myself jumping into forbidden waters. I wrote two essays during an 8-week fiction/memoir workshop that were incredibly personal: One about being a childfree vs childless woman; the other an intimate look at my relationship with my husband and my sexuality.
Between the two, childfree vs childless was easier to write (although still incredibly difficult).
I’ve steered clear of writing about sex and intimacy because of my own struggles with both. “Intimate” started as a love letter to my husband, describing how we met in college. It morphed into my fears of desire, with me caught between want and need while actively resisting both. I didn’t even realize my essay had shifted focus until my instructor’s critique. Not only did she pick up on the underlying tensions (the words between the lines), it was that tension she was most interested in. That tension was the “heat” of my essay and what she found most powerful.
I freaked when I read her critique. My subconscious had betrayed me. Rather than write a safe love letter, my fears and desires were laid bare for all to read, buried in subtext, obvious to the trained eye. Worse yet, she asked me to be bolder, go deeper, wanting to know more.
Normally that’s the best response ever to a piece. The type of response I actively crave. This, however, frightened me because to give her the depth she wanted I needed to peel back layer after uncomfortable layer of a topic I’d diligently avoided. A topic both painful and frightening.
I’m currently revising “Intimate” and have plenty of days where I want to run from/abandon the project. If it weren’t for my instructor’s and husband’s overwhelming faith and support I wonder how well I’d keep my demons in check. Support is so important. They believe in me and my work, thinking it a powerful essay that can reach others.
For so long I’ve written in a vacuum. Now that I’m finally reaching out, trying to find and build a supportive writing community, I’m amazed and humbled at how helpful and wonderful it is.
Writing is a scary business sometimes. I continue to work on this essay with the hope that even as I fear the truth and exposure of such personal feelings, others can and will relate, forming a brief but lasting connection.
I write with the hope that I am not alone.