We were in the dark. I needed a place to stay for one night and my friend had an extra bed. He was on one side of the room and I was on the other. We were talking. The room had narrow windows, heavy curtains, and a low ceiling. I could tell where he was only by the sound of his voice. We’d been talking for over an hour in that darkness.
There is something about not being able to see…
He asked me a question I didn’t want to answer. I rolled over on my side and looked into the dark center of the room. It was one of those questions you can’t answer without sounding like a slut or a prude. I wanted an answer that will give nothing away, but I’m no Mae West, no Dorothy Parker. “I’m not going to answer that,” I said with an effort to laugh.
He was my best friend. We spent every day together. And he was engaged to a girl several hundred miles away. With every grad school failure I cried on his shoulder. He had amazing moods–dancing wildly in the center of the dance floor to nearly unable to crawl out from under the blankets. “That means no,” he said.
“You think what you want,” I said. The blanket scratched at me and my heart picked up speed. From across the room I can feel him thinking. I tell myself I’m imagining things. Reading too much into things. I was forever doing that.
Then he suggested what I had willed him not to. For a moment I thought of saying yes. Call his bluff or see what would happen. I laughed. “Oh of course not,” I said. “You just stay right over there where you belong and enough with the crazy talk. I’m tired and need some sleep.”
“Marta,” he said.
I rolled over to face the wall. “I know. I know you’re kidding. Honestly, you’re a nut sometimes.”
“Good night, Marta,” he said.
“Good night, ________,” I said, wondering if I’d said the right thing.
I have a hard time believing what people say to me about my work. Are they just being polite? Are they kidding? No. They’re honest. Why would they make that up? But maybe I want it to be true. Maybe they’re wrong. Why couldn’t they be right? Maybe I’m thinking too much of myself. Surely they are being nice. Nobody wants to say bad things to anyone. They like me. They think I’m crazy. I’m being overdramatic. I’m not crazy. But maybe I’m in denial about being crazy. I want them to like me. Maybe I should nod my head and go with whatever they say. Accept it. I can’t think straight. God, I can’t write.
Putting your work out into the world is so much exposure. And who wants to see this side of my brain? Some you have said that you don’t mind sharing or that you even like to. I know people who can’t wait to wave their manuscript at you and get an opinion. Some people don’t care what other people think. It must be nice to be them.
But then in spite of feeling panic, exposure, and uncertainty, I hand my work out anyway. Except to my husband. I told him once he could read my novel and then I had to take it back. I couldn’t handle the panic attacks.
What, if anything, scares you about writing? What makes you doubt yourself? What do people say that you can’t quite believe? How do you deal with doubt?