Is It Time For Me To Step Aside?
A serious, non-emotional look at my identity as a writer
I am a middle-aged heterosexual white Christian woman living in the South. And I am wondering if it is time to put down my pen.
I will be nakedly honest…I don’t want to. Ever since I was 8 years old, my all-consuming dream has been to publish novels. Yes, I have self-published a novel and a book of poetry. But that was not my dream. My dream is to publish books with a publisher’s stamp on them after having been edited and recommended or sold by an agent. You know, the old fashioned way.
But there is nothing about my SELF that has a significant voice, or at least I feel that way. I am not at all angry or bitter or put-upon facing this possible truth. Seasons come and seasons go. At the age of 20, I had the chance to realize another dream - to become a musician. I chose to stay in school, and at 52 years of age, I understand without malice that the season for becoming a musician has passed.
There have been more white authors of published books since books began being published until now, than there will ever be diverse authors probably for at least the next century. That is a sad and shameful thing that has needed to change for a very long time. There are authors along all sorts of continuums who have been underrepresented or not represented at all for far too long. I am a parent and a sister and a friend to many of these unheard voices. I want them to be heard.
That said, I am a blonde, beige, protestant wife trying to realize that 44-year-old self-defining dream, and I am wondering if I should lay it down. The thought is as painful as laying down both my arms, but really...do I have anything to say that hasn't already been said?
Most everything about me is normative. I mean, I am adopted and have an interesting backstory and somewhat diverse DNA, but lots of people are adopted. I am mildly on the spectrum, so I guess that is sort of a thing? But I have had 52 years living in an environment where I was forced to adapt and practice the skill of being normal. So you could miss any "atypical" features about me if you weren't looking pretty closely.
I have struggled with suicidal ideation, even spending time in a crisis unit, but do I really want to use that as some sort of voice trope? The same with being sexually assaulted. Waving those flags to prove I deserve to write seems completely offensive. Nauseatingly offensive to people who suffer and have been marginalized due to these factors.
I will never know what it is like to be a person of color in America. I would not even dare to try. My skin and my personal beliefs have afforded me privilege whether my standing or financial status ever did or not. I will never know what it's like to be persecuted for who I love or how I identify. I will never know what it's like to be maligned simply because I feel as if my biology does not match my gender. I have close family members and loved ones who live these lives, but they are not my lives, and it would be arrogant to think I understand just because I live alongside them. They face struggles I never have and never will.
In some ways, this entire post makes me sheepish, as if it is one long privileged whining session. But I sincerely am not whining. I am asking myself a tough question. I had plenty of years in my twenties, thirties, and maybe even forties to realize this dream that makes me ME. The fact that I was choosing to be a teacher, raise children, and keep my head above water in some horrible circumstances is no one's problem but my own. The fact that I am just now able to pour myself into this dream at a time when I might be becoming superfluous and irrelevant is also no one's problem but my own.
I love to tell stories. I love words. I love a good hair-raising tale or psychological thriller or heart-warming romance. But maybe what I would love to say no longer needs to be said by virtue of what I am.
Yes, I have held this dream for so long, I cannot imagine being without yet. But I am also pragmatic. I would rather know the truth of my life and my environment than delude myself and spend energies that are not well spent. I have recently submitted to a few types of open, nontargeted writing contests. I submitted in spite of reading mentor after mentor who was "particularly on the lookout" for certain types of voices and certain types of writers. Maybe I need to look at the world in front of me. Maybe I do not need to add my voice to their task list when they are truly looking for other voices.
I have made hard choices in my life. I chose to live when everything in me wanted to die. I ended a marriage in the face of the harsh judgment of traditional voices and the weight of my own failure. I have let go of who I thought I was more than once. I know, if I should, I can let that 8-year-old girl with the big dream die. I can put down the pen...if I have to.
Because that's what it means. If I'm not going to be a writer, I am not going to write. Just like my friend who cannot conceive doesn't work in the church nursery. It's too hard.
So there it is. I'm still holding the pen tightly, but I'm also reading the wall.
I guess it's decision time.
Laurie is an Instructional Designer, Wife, Mother, Musician, and Writer. In her nonspare time, she spoils her canine office assistant, Ginger. She back after a long hiatus and getting her feet wet again, with trepidation and joy.