“The edge of normal”
You know me better than anyone. You know that I’m a confident, self-assured woman. You’ve seen me walk into a room full of strangers and make friends within minutes. You know I have a mind of my own, and that I’m comfortable in myself.
And all of that is real.
However, there’s another side to me that you don’t know.
You see… when I am alone, I destroy myself. This is the artist in me, the sensitive side of me that enables me to turn experience into art. And that side of me thinks too much sometimes. Sometimes, when I’m alone, my thoughts turn to what I did and said wrong in that room full of strangers. I think about the opinions I heard in that room and wonder if I should hold the same too. I tut and roll my eyes when I think about the awful impression I must have made – who does that writer think she is? Then comes the worse thought… I’m wasting my time by writing at all.
When I’m thinking logically, of course I know I’m not wasting anything. My heart drives me forward and that can never be wrong. Still my mind punches me in the gut and laughs at my stupidity for ever thinking anything will come of it. Who am I? I am nothing. I’m just one of the millions of other writers out there fooling themselves into thinking they’re any good.
So I tell myself to stop playing the fool – go do something that will actually make some money, provide for my children. That’s when the tear ducts in my eyes pinch and I know the moment is about to go one way or another.
That’s when I phone my husband and he tells me that, yes, I am stupid – for being so tough on myself. He tells me to open up any story I’ve written and start reading. He waits until I do it. After a few paragraphs I feel better. I’ve led a fascinating life and my stories reflect this. All writers destroy themselves. Then we pick ourselves up, or someone does it for us, and we get on with it.
It’s not just writers who do this of course. Who doesn’t have moments like these?
It’s just that writers do these moments incredibly well and have them really, really often. We take ourselves to the edge of normal, then tell ourselves that we don’t even belong there. We stare at distant objects. We listen to music that reaches deep inside us and twists things around. We analyse every detail, especially about ourselves. It’s what makes us who we are; it makes us good at what we do. But it’s also hard to live that way… in secret.
So I just wanted to tell my friends… the next time we go for coffee or chat on the phone, and I wave you goodbye with a smile or say a cheery farewell… just know that as soon as I’m alone, I’ll be ripping myself to pieces again. Most writers are like this, and I’m no different – despite the confident, comfortable real me that you know.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m incredibly happy with my life – so privileged, exhilarated by it even. I consider myself lucky. It’s just that sometimes, sometimes… I’m a typical writer.
And sometimes I feel the need to tell you: this is the life I lead.