So I haven’t been here in what seems like forever. I wish I could tell you it’s because I’ve been SOOO busy doing SUUUCH exciting things, but then you’d be expecting me to write about it and well, it’s simply not true.
Truth is, I’ve been busy writing, which, I guess is sort of exciting. It’s exciting to me. It’s also frustrating and nerve-wracking and irritating and a whole hell of a lot of fun. It just. Takes. So. Long! I have a cheerleader who is desperate to read my book. She’s read the first two chapters and the “mom” chapters I posted not too long ago. She likes what she’s read and she’s chomping at the bit to read more. Sorry! You’ll just have to wait.
Anyway, I’ve been busy committing all my writing time to the book and I’m really happy with what’s coming out, even it is taking an eternity and a half to create but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of fear that goes with it. (It would be well to note that fear often has no basis in rational thinking, however…)
I’m fearful that this book is not as good as I think it is (despite significant evidence to the contrary.)
I’m fearful that just because a handful of people have read a small fraction of what I’ve written and liked it, a lot, that it will not be good in the eyes of a publishing company.
I’m fearful that because of the nature of its content, what I’m writing will never be accepted by mainstream publishing and even if it ever does get published, it won’t be by a mainstream house and may not be promoted or marketed enough to sell many copies.
I’m fearful that this is the only thing I’ll ever be able to write. It took me 32 years to come up with an idea which actually formed into a complete story. What if it takes another 32 years to come up with the next one?
While I’m enjoying the process and would be happy for any amount of success that might come from it, I have to admit that all of that is tempered with a fear that I might get exactly what I want; a fantastic book, well received by major publishing houses, huge promotion and significant compensation and an opportunity to do more…
I’ve grudgingly resigned myself to the idea that my family may never really know me; never know the full truth about me. I don’t love this idea, but I’ve lived with it for a long time and it’s…familiar. But, what if I get published. What if this book I’m writing, a book all about a young man who comes to terms with his sexuality despite his conservative upbringing and judgmental mother, a book full of emotional turmoil and sexual revelation… and sex, get’s published and promoted and makes even a medium splash in the literary world? My mother is a voracious reader. I’m not sure if a book like mine could accidentally find its way into her hands, but the prospect is disconcerting, at least.
I wrote a scene just the other day between our lead character, Calvin and a would-be lover/pseudo mentor, Trip, in which Trip explains his less than blissful relationship with his own family. Without getting too bogged down in details or giving away too much of my, as yet unpublished passion, Cal has been taken to an Atlanta emergency room after a relatively minor injury. Trip accompanied Calvin and is waiting in a room with him. Pay attention to the last line:
Another thought occurred to me that I was ashamed not to have realized earlier. “Oh my God, Trip!” I slapped my hand down on his arm which had been resting comfortably on the edge of my bed. “I’ve done it again. You missed your brother’s reception. What was I thinking making you bring me here.”
“Those drugs they gave you must be really good,” he laughed. “You’ll recall I didn’t give you a choice in the matter.” He patted my hand still resting on his other arm. “Don’t worry about the reception. I was there for most of it. I won’t have been missed, I’m sure.”
There was something sad in his tone and I wondered what his relationship with his family might really be like. “I’m sure that’s not true,” I suggested. “You’re brothers after all.”
Trip just looked at me for several long seconds and then he leaned forward in the chair, and whispered to me, conspiratorially. “I’ll tell you a secret Cal. What you saw last night? The way Tommy acted when you and I were leavin’? That was just the tip of the iceberg. My family has really struggled since I came out. Most of the time I think they’re happier when I’m not around.” That revelation struck me hard. What must it have been like for him to accept being gay, acknowledge it, and tell his family, knowing that his father was a Baptist Preacher and his family would not accept him? I couldn’t imagine what his life must be like and I didn’t understand how he could come off as being so self assured when he had this burden weighing him down when he thought no one was paying attention.
And he wanted me to be in the same boat? How could he expect anyone to follow in his footsteps and demolish whatever sense of a life they had? I was about to ask him just that when the nurse walked in.
We ate in silence for a while, crunching on our fruits and vegetables. In spite of my hunger, I couldn’t bear to eat the white bread bun so I pulled the turkey off the sandwich and ate it plain. Finally, I gingerly turned my head to look at Trip directly and I said, “I’m sorry, Trip. I’m really sorry.”
He was confused, “’Bout what?”
“It sounds terrible,” I answered, clearing nothing up. “I can’t imagine facing my parents and knowing that they don’t approve of me.” Even as I said it I realized, I already knew how that felt. I was all too familiar with the look of disdain my mother was so adept at displaying at the merest mention of pretty much any new idea I’d ever had. I knew that if I were to tell her I was gay that would be the end for us. The look she would give me, her reaction to that news would be impossible to get past. “It must be just awful to be faced with that every day.”
Trip’s expression darkened. “It’s not easy,” he said, his voice was thick with grief. “My parents had such high hopes for me when I was growin’ up,” he continued. “They wanted me to be a pastor like my father and like his father and his father before him. Our family has been leading The First Baptist Church of Savannah for three generations. Daddy is pretty well respected in the community.” He paused and as his eyes glistened he gulped hard, holding his feelings in. “Well anyway, he was. And then about eight months ago I was caught on film coming out of a club called The Cockpit. There was a local news crew doing a remote spot outside the club. I didn’t even notice them at the time and I have no idea what the story was about let alone that I was on film but before I knew it, someone had seen me on the news and it got back to the Convention – The Southern Baptist Convention – and they talked to my dad about it.
“And then a couple months ago Janelle got pregnant and she and Tommy had to have this shotgun wedding. Which is a sham, as far as I’m concerned and I just know they’re not going to last and I can’t help but think that’ll be even worse for my father’s reputation. But you know… At least they’re doin’ the honorable thing in the face of their shame. There’s nothin’ I can do to make this right in their eyes. And now, daddy’s reputation is damaged and the Convention is talkin’ about replacing him at the church. It’s all a big ugly mess and not the way I would have wanted it to be, at all.
“I dreaded comin’ out to my parents and I put it off way too long… I sure as hell didn’t want them to find out from someone else. Let alone the whole community.” Tears crept down his face now and he lowered his head, staring at the blanket that covered me. “Talkin’ to my parents about being gay was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I owed it to them to be the one to tell them, and I didn’t do it.”
It seems like a long shot at best but I would hate for this book to be the way my family finds out that I’m gay and yet having that conversation is something I’m unable to imagine. But the flip side of that is, what happens if this book actually gets published? What if it actually is a moderate (or bigger) hit and I make a nice chunk of change from it? What if I need to go on some sort of book tour because of it? What if this turns out to be a really big deal… And I can’t share it with my family, because to share it with them I’d have to tell them the hardest thing I could imagine ever having to tell them? And what if I have to go through the rest of my life watching what I say, careful never to give any inclination about any of the experiences that I’ve had as a result of writing this book, just as I have to be careful now, never to mention anything that might reveal the identity that is Riggledo (blog, twitter, e-mail, etc.)
I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse, as I’m prone to do, and I’m not allowing these fears to stop me writing the book, but I can’t help fearing all these things.
2 thoughts on “Fear of Success”
I think that’s the hardest part about writing for some of us. You allow people to see places in your heart that you’ve been unable to show in any other way before. For you, that place isn’t “something about you.” It’s who you are, and revealing it carries a huge amount of risk.
I can understand your fear, but there’s a part of me that can’t believe a mother would reject her child in the way you seem certain will happen. But if that is truly what will happen, then I have to wonder how long you can go on denying who you are and hiding your true self from everyone around you. By doing so, you’re giving up the happiness you so desperately seek in order to make sure you don’t cause unhappiness for your family.
I wouldn’t want to be faced with that kind of dilemma, not in a million years. But I think there will come a point when in spite of what everyone else thinks, your only choice will be to let them know who you are. Maybe this book is your way of taking that leap. And when you’re finally able to let others see the real you (a wonderful person, IMO) that’s when you’ll finally be able to breathe and be happy.