I have been reading a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic started. How I choose the next book I will read is unique – a new intuitive method. I decided to purchase and download books, put them in my shelf at home or in my digital library in my phone and pick one up entirely based on feeling, timing and attraction.
I guess you can say I’ve been letting books find me. The one book I would pick up and read would choose the next one. The feeling I was left with as I turned the last page of a novel determined the mood I would be in going into the next. I couldn’t put down Eat, Pray, Love and then pick up a Jon Krakauer story. I could, though, pick up The Handmaid’s Tale. The incredibly creative tale brought a non-fiction biography into my hands afterwards. Which could have definitely been a brilliant Krakauer piece, but with the start of my last year as a journalism student, it was “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life,” by Anne Lamott.
This book is filling me with a need to write and an eagerness to read fiction, next. I noticed I’ve been bouncing between fiction and non-fiction, one after the other. Perfect balance. The next one will be fiction, preferably in a colder setting, for some reason. That is the current mood, which could be due to the Canadian ground below my feet starting to freeze as we slip into Fall and wool sweaters. As I write this, I see the bright orange and yellow colours from the trees outside and those that decorate the jacket of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” squished between two other fiction novels on the shelf in my peripheral view. Perhaps that is the next one? Reading based on feeling and mood, while letting novels influence those feelings and moods, is like being on a never-ending adventure.
This brings me to the purpose of this blog post: a quote from the book I am currently reading, making me want to start writing about my story but also disappear into a work of fiction by someone with a different story than my own.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If they wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
Thank you, Anne Lamott. With 24 words strategically spread into three sentences, you have caused a rain storm in my head where each drop is watering the soil of my thoughts after a drought: the Sahara desert of writer’s block. Like the desire of reading and writing, this quote buzzed in me and pushed me to my keyboard with a force that every Star Wars fan would understand. I could feel it propel me into writing: pins and needles in my fingertips as if words and sentences were trying to physically come out from between the ridges of my fingerprints. Had I not picked this book, I would not have stumbled onto that quote. Had I not trusted in my feelings and intuitive connection to pick this book, I would not have found these three sentences, felt what I just described and written what follows.
If people wanted to be the superhero in your story, they should have showed up heroically in your life. If they wanted you to praise them in your writing, they should have treated you better. Tell the truth, tell your truth. Don’t be afraid that your art and your words will expose people that defame you every chance they get. Don’t be afraid to tell your side of the story even if it throws some people under the bus; the same people that would run you over with that same bus without hesitation if it meant protecting their own image.
Don’t be afraid to create art from the chaos your life once was. Don’t protect people that never protected you. Write your truth. Write about the monsters they say never existed. Write about the trauma they say never happened. Write about what you saw. Write about what you heard. Write about how it affected you. Write about justice. Write non-fiction and let them call it make-believe. Write your true story and let them call it a fictitious tale. Don’t let invalidation prevent you from creating your art.
Beautiful things can come from darkness. What a tragedy it would be if we didn’t fight for ourselves and speak our truth. If we let others win, stayed silent, pretended, lived by other people’s lies and lived our entire life defining who we are based on the labels they gave us and the names they called us. What a tragedy it would be to waste our lives wearing the illnesses they assign to our person to convince themselves that we are a problem, not them. Like an old, over-sized, heavy costume for a character we don’t know in a play we didn’t sign up for. The only role you should bring to life is who you are in your story. Don’t give any life to the roles other people give you so that their made-up version of who you are will validate the narrative in their own story.
You own everything that happened to you. No one can take that away from you. So tell your story. Tell it like it was, like it sounded, like it felt, like it looked, like it hurt… tell it like it is.
It’s that simple.
Good people that treated you right will never be scared of your art being published.