Writing Your Practice, the writing course my sister and I are enrolled in, has begun. Our first tele-class was Monday. Even the time that we were on the call was precious to me. I was at the shop, in one of the vacant offices upstairs -- the one I secretly dream is my permanent office, will be my permanent office. For a little while Mr Burns was with me, having recently mastered the stairs (albeit only the Up part of the stairs, not Down), but then Joe came to gather him up, take him back to his office, once it became clear that Burnsy was awake and eager to play. Rain was falling, the first of the autumn. All the sounds outside were hushed, the light low. It was, honestly, just so peaceful on the one hand and thrilling on the other, to be sitting right at the center of what I love best and paying attention to it. Having a goal about it.
Because it's what I do, when it came time for student-participation, I un-muted myself as instructed and spoke. I went first. This may not seem like a big deal, but I assure you that every time this happens, every time I do this, I want to do a little dance about it. Jump around.
For years and years of my student-life -- high school, college -- I wouldn't say not even one word in class unless called upon. I would be utterly mute for an entire semester, the very thought of squeaking up sufficient to make my heart pound and my cheeks heat. Always terrified of sounding like an idiot, asking a stupid question, I'd remain word-less, ask-less. And the longer I didn't speak in class, then the harder it became to speak up, as if I had to push against the weight of all those unspoken thoughts.
The Why of this silent is easy. Although people are generally unwilling to believe it, I am (or was?) shy and a little anti-social, left to my own devices. That + the terror instilled by super-mean teachers we had at French-American Bilingual School (who were not above mocking a child in front of the whole class, among other cruelties), and there it is. Plus, let's be complete: I was raised by language- and grammar-nerds who will correct every wrong word out of your mouth, ignoring your point entirely, in the interest of cleaning up your expression until it shines bright like the sun.
So, afraid of the dunce cap, I'd keep my mouth shut always.
But I wasn't happy about it. I hated it, felt like I had the dunce cap on anyway, constantly. I felt completely limited, by my own choice, stifled by this quiet persona. Until I realized that the antidote was to always make myself talk the very first class. Instead of being The Girl Who Never Talks, by force of will, with a little courage, I could transform myself into The Girl Who Contributes. So much more comfortable, but also terrifying, in its own way. But I know that I have to just throw myself out there, no matter what, from the start.
It's something I have to choose each and every time, an effort that must be made. I made the choice on Monday, hitting star-6 on my keypad as soon as the invitation was extended, knowing I had to break the silence early in order for it to remain free of its grip.
What's funny for me is that now, instead of worrying about sounding like an idiot -- which was my big fear when I was afraid to speak up -- now that I talk, I am constantly questioning my tendency to show off, to brag, to tell stories about myself, aren't I so great, isn't this just the best idea you ever heard, aren't I just so interesting? I guard against narcissism, against becoming a self-involved bore. But I'd rather talk than not talk.
We'd been asked to go through an assignment we'd written, highlighting words or ideas that could seed further writing and exploration. I'd highlighted, "I grew up coveting my mother's typewriter." So on the call, when asked, I talked about the many directions I could take this seed image in -- how much I gloried in being able to lay my hands on that typewriter, to see and feel and hear the transfer of the letter on the key to the page, how satisfying that was for me, how that machine marked me, chose me, placed me here. Oh, rhapsody!
Naturally, after I spoke, I questioned every word I'd used. Did I sound like an asshole? Or was I interesting? These are the poles I bounce between -- idiot/braggart, dummy/show-off. I try to stay in the middle, far from either extreme, but let's be honest: writing a blog is necessarily show-off-y. I try to live a beautiful, interesting life that provides material for joy and for telling stories, so guilty of bragging as charged. Sue me.
I still haven't done the homework, which is to spin out that typewriter theme, but I'm getting to it. I'm still writing every day, which is the real homework, so I feel like I'm OK. I could make excuses but I won't. It's more a matter of carving out the discrete time and space, of turning away from the puppy and getting down to the work at hand, which is writing, on the one hand, but which is really more than that, on the other. It's writing AND it's spinning reality at the same time. It's doing the homework and it's doing the lifework. I can't shake the feeling that writing about the typewriter's role in my destiny is itself a way of unrolling that destiny, writing about the dream makes the dream manifest.
Who put drugs in my coffee this morning, dude? Seriously.
But I mean it. This is intense, this process. I am so grateful to Martine for doing the course with me. Knowing that she was signing up too, made me even happier to dedicate the time, to commit 2 hours pretty much every Monday from now to mid-December + homework time, to making writing a priority. I feel like this is it, there's no turning back. We've crossed the threshold and we're off, boldly speaking up and making shit happen, authors of our own destinies for reals.