A public exhibition

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Here I sit, hunched over my construction paper, gripping a crayon so tightly that it snaps in half. Arm curved protectively around the paper, so close that it curls and crimps the corners of the pages. Tongue stuck out in concentration. Creating, creating, but with each stroke, holding it closer to myself.

It’s both a blessing and a curse, this writing thing. I have no secrets, and I’ve never found it especially difficult to bare my soul on paper [computer screen]. No holding back. It’s how I do it, and there’s something freeing about pouring out whatever I feel inside. No pretending. Nothing surface about it — I love to go deep emotionally.

So no one is more surprised than I am by how vulnerable I feel having my manuscript read by a few close friends (both writers and non).

It makes me feel sick to my stomach. Restless. Defensive. I never realized how much trust I, as a writer, have to put in my reader. To keep an open mind. To trust my voice. To make the leaps, to apply the ideas to their own lives, to refrain from scoffing. Since my writing is about my faith, it is hard to separate criticisms of my writing from criticisms of my faith. I’m fighting to keep it from feeling personal.

Maybe this is why so many people want to avoid making art. Because it pulls from that deep, wordless place inside. And once you get it out, there’s nothing to keep people from seeing it. You can no longer pretend it’s not there.

What if they don’t like it? What if they misunderstand? What if I’m not capable of doing my beliefs justice? What if I’m wrong? What if, what if, what if?

What if they don’t like me?

Because, really, I think that’s what it all comes down to. When I tried out for cheerleader in elementary school, I cried when I didn’t make it. Never mind my awkwardness. Never mind that I didn’t like sports. Never mind that I couldn’t keep my legs straight when I did a cartwheel. Never mind that it would have been a singular type of torture for me to stand in front of a crowd and do a cheer. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t me. It was what I wished I could be, but I wasn’t.

But writing? It feeds and nurtures and soothes and calms my soul like nothing else. It’s not what I like but who I am. And the thing I have to remember is that I wouldn’t take that piece of construction paper with the laborious drawing on it and tape it with the picture facing the wall. No, I would put it up on the fridge for all the world to see.

I guess now I’m taking that step with my words on a page. Learning to accept that there’s no going back — and no reason to want to. I fully believe that I am where I am because God placed me here. I got a book offer and an agent after sending a mere THREE query letters. I know how rare that is. And it’s not because I’m amazing. It’s because God is at the heart of this book of mine, and apparently He’s ready for me to do this. I’m not the One making this happen. I’m just walking (writing) in faith, one step at a time. Hoping and praying that, when my readers look, they see past the toddler’s scribbles to the One who inspired them. The only One who can transform my crooked drawing made with sticks of colored wax into a Rembrandt.

Tell me I’m not alone: what do you feel compelled to do, even though it makes you feel a little bit afraid?

2 Responses to “A public exhibition”

  1. […] As a creative person, there really are few things I can think of that are more nerve-wracking than showing off your work.  It opens you up to judgment and scrutiny.  But it’s a necessary part of the creative process – the big reveal.  Kelly O’Dell Stanley really struck me with her words on publicly sharing our creative work. […]

  2. […] Tell me I’m not alone: what do you feel compelled to do, even though it makes you feel a littl… Email /* […]

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