In the year after Mom died I gained somewhere between twenty and thirty pounds. I don’t even know exactly how much–I didn’t have a scale through most of that time, and that’s maybe just as well. I’m sure it didn’t help that I lost my job that same year, and for much of the winter I pretty much lived off cheap cuts of meat and a bag of potatoes someone gave me, with occasional splurges on chocolate and ice cream because I was depressed and grieving and when I’m down, I crave chocolate and ice cream.
All my adult life I’ve pretty much always been a few pounds over where I’d like to be–a little pudgy. But I was definitely beyond a little pudgy right then.
What really brought it home for me was this: hanging out with friends and co-workers we may say things like “I’d really like to wear x, but I’m just too fat.” And friends say, “Oh, you are not.” And let’s face it: we all fish for those sort of “You aren’t that broken” compliments.
But all of a sudden, if I talked about wanting to get in better shape, people wouldn’t argue with me or reassure me. Most would avert their eyes, or talk about how a friend of theirs lost weight, without actually quite coming out and saying “Yeah, you really need to do the same.” They might not baldly state, “Wow, you’re fat!” (well, most didn’t), but they wouldn’t tell me I was OK, either. The silence spoke volumes.
Changing gears for a moment: I like to write stories. I always have, not just as a little kid when everyone is fascinated by tale telling, not just in grade school and high school when it was required, but doggedly, here and there, always. When I was a kid, I dreamed of being the next Elizabeth Enright or Edward Eager or Eleanor Estes. Later, I had other writing idols, but there’s never been a time when I didn’t want to spin stories.
But I really don’t entirely know what I’m doing, and don’t know if I really have what it takes to make it *worth* doing.
That last is likely the bigger problem.
I’m not sure it’s even possible to be a success as a writer/artist if you a) lack confidence and the ability to self-promote, b) have no champion to make up for a) (some friends and family members have parents and/or spouses who support and critique, and I envy them that tremendously), and c) don’t get much in the way of positive feedback and constructive criticism.
Not to be morbid, but I have this vision of dying eventually, and having people go through my stuff, astounded to discover how much I’ve written over the years. Will they say, “Look! She really was pretty good. Too bad she never really put her work out there.” (Which would be sad.)
Or will it be more like, “Look, yet another notebook full of crap. Where did you set that garbage can? Man, she wasted a lot of time.” (Which would be far sadder.)
I don’t know how one goes about getting an honest answer about abilities/capabilities, either, at least not without being able to go to a quality college-level writing school–something which isn’t feasible since I’m not a young kid and have no expendable income. I do post things from time to time or share with friends, but most of the time, I feel like I get a response similar to friends’ responses in my fat days. No one wants to be so impolite as to say, “You know, I gotta be honest: you obviously try hard, but really…you’re kinda lame and untalented.” I don’t get a lot of feedback, one way or the other. As in my previous example, that silence likely speaks volumes.
Earlier this year, I asked friends and family about getting into copy-editing and proofreading, and I’ve continued to study a bit on that. It would get me more into working with words and I do think it’s something I’d enjoy, but only if it was my primary job. As is, I have a job already, and I have little free time–my work day and commute pretty much account for ten hours of my day. When I get home in the evening, I want to write. As much as I like prettying up writing for people at work, I think I’d get more and more frustrated if it took up my mornings and evenings as well.
I’ve been praying for some sign that trying to write stories isn’t just a completely selfish self-indulgence, that I might actually get somewhere with it, that it’s worthy of effort. If the answer is that I lack the intelligence and creativity to really “make it,” I guess I at least want to know. If the answer is that I need the right person(s) to guide me toward doing something meaningful with writing, I’d like to know that, too.
I don’t know what exactly to hope for.