Gah! Cat Hellisen has done it again! She’s written this blog post that has me blubbering because it’s true and it’s made me realise something: there’s space in this big old world for stories like mine. And yours.
I’ve always been secretly chagrined that I don’t write gritty, adult stories. Why can’t I be more grown-up? Why can’t I write about real things? Why can’t I write more magic or less magic or none at all? But I don’t. My best stories tend to be of the gentle, tender, magical variety that people use words like ‘sweet’ and ‘lovely’ to describe. I’ll be honest, I’m not always fond of those words because I grew up having those same words labeling my singing voice when all I wanted to have was an unusual, gravelly voice like so many 90’s alternative artists.
I’ve finally, at age 37, come to terms with my singing voice. I realise what it’s worth now, I’ve realised that its sweetness has a power of its own – in those quite moments when people are holding their breath. I like it. I haven’t quite got to that same adult conclusion when it comes to my writing.
I wish my work would end up more edgy, more soul shattering. But even when I try to do that, it comes out contrived – like I’m trying to stuff a galaxy into an atom. Instead I write things like A Path in the Forest and even Five Sets of Hands because there’s something gentle and wonder-seeking about my nature and it comes out.
Why does it take us so long to settle down into who we are?
Being a fan of Cat’s writing I would never have imagined she would feel insecure about her talent… because, well, she’s brilliant. But I guess she feels insecure sometimes for the same reasons I do: because somewhere in our heads we’re wondering why these particular stories take up residence in our heads. Why these and not the clever ones our peers are writing?
The thing is, in spite of the way technology makes everything feel so near, this is still a big world. And in this very big world there is surely some space for my ‘lovely’ stories that will never make it into the grittier anthologies and collections. There must surely be space for my particular brand of storytelling. And yours.
We talk about diversity a lot these days and we applaud those who are being different but we don’t extend ourselves the same grace when we are a little different. Stop that, okay? (Yes, I am speaking to myself) Life is too short to spend it staring at someone else’s work lamenting that we can’t make the same kind of art.
Maybe we spend too much time worrying about awards and publication deals (which are by no means a bad thing! They might pay the rent one day, so let’s celebrate them, shall we?) and not just telling stories. Maybe just telling stories feels like a bit of a luxury but it’s one I’m clinging to right now. I’m spending the next few months reminding myself why I write and purposefully writing things I don’t plan to publish. I might at some stage decide to brush them off and clean them up to send out into the world but I need some time to love writing again.
So, what are you writing?
Whatever it is, keep at it.