I’ve been struggling a lot with writing. I write, I discard. I write, I leave pieces unfinished. I write, then wonder why anyone would even bother reading anything I have to say. But eventually something need to go out into the world. I was listening to an episode of Another Round last week. Tracy and Heben were speaking to Ashley Ford about how they go through the same thing a lot. When Ashley was asked about what she learned about herself through therapy, she spoke about being a perfectionist. She says that she never thought she was a perfectionist until she went for therapy. She slowly began to realise that her perfectionism translated into paralysis, in terms of wanting to do something and having such high standards for herself that she couldn't even get started. Girl. When I heard that sentence I swear my soul harmonised a hallelujah chorus. "This is exactly it!", I thought to myself. I haven't been writing because I not only doubted the importance of what I wanted to say but I also didn't believe it was good enough for me!
I’m published. I wrote an essay about two years ago about being submissive (in terms of kink, not patriarchy) and one amazing woman, Yolisa Qunta, felt it was good enough to be included in her book of essays, Writing What We Like along with other great writers. I really and truly did not understand why she wanted this but I agreed. I went as far as not editing the piece because every time I read that piece now I can look back at how my writing was when I first began exploring my thoughts more. I love how honest it is. I love the voice I used it. And oh my Beyoncé, I am a published writer.
Even writing that sentence I wanted to say I’m technically a published writer when the word that should be there is literally. I’m about to have my first piece of academic writing published in a Feminist journal. It hasn’t quite hit me yet. Why and how is it that all these writer things are happening at the same time and I’m still struggling to put out my writing because I believe it isn’t good enough? My co-supervisors are pretty excited and proud of my paper but I’m still so damn uncertain of my self. My writing. My voice. Basically, I'm still unsure of the importance of having this voice, as Panashe Chigumadzi spoke about in an episode of Frank. I’ve written for online magazines, hosted incredible women on my blog for the My Feminism Looks Like Series and am learning to trust the importance of my words.
And with all this, I still squirm when people call me a writer.
Do I have a case of Imposter Syndrome I need to overcome or is it what Stacy Mari Ismael refers to as the fact that, “women never praise themselves as often as men do”? I hate that it may be both of these. I hate that they're even a thing. But I am learning to do better. I'm learning to embrace my doubts and my failures to do better. Let's not get too philosophical here. This shit does suck. But I'm going to try power through it - and trust me, sometimes that means allowing myself the tears and working my way through the panic attacks - in order to get these words out. I'm terrified of failing, not only other people but also myself. I'm terrified of putting my words out there. But, once again, I'm trying to do better. I surround myself with Black women, I listen to Black women speak, I read things like this by Black women (in that last case, Melissa Harris-Perry). I'm trying to do better.
In the episode of Another Round, Tracy shares a quote by Thomas Mann, "a writer is something for whom the act of writing is harder than it is for other people" which is something a writer friend of mine, Dasia has also shared on her blog. That. Shit. Right. There. Talk about writing through your feels, cross-referencing with things other writers have said and finally coming to terms with a noun that makes you anxious. I guess I am a writer.
I’ll be attempting to follow Jane Smiley's advice and be aware that the magic of the first draft is that it simply exists. I need to allow more of my writing to exist.
P.S. If you are in Joburg and are able to come to the Joburg launch of Writing What We Like tomorrow, please do come through? I have a slight (understatement) fear of public speaking and seeing familiar faces would be amazing.