I stumbled across what seemed like an intriguing coincidence this morning, considering how exposed I felt at times last evening, watching at a distance as strangers read my most personal of words.
I agreed to do an art show with a watercolorist friend and it turned out to be more of an invasion than I expected. So, the article entitled "Stop Hiding: It's Time You Embrace Your Creative Identity" intrigued me. I clicked the link, eager to uncover the secret, and the page popped up with a 404 message - unable to find. Apparently, I was on my own.
As an emerging writer, only spending the past four year in earnest pursuit of the craft, I’ve faced a number of challenges; learning to write loose and open, leaving editing for last; allowing what is under the obvious to boil up and over revealing the true source of my inspiration, pushing on beyond the superfluous and safe, and of course, the ultimate challenge of allowing another to read my words, written as they were, intended for my eyes only. That was my usual ruse to ease my defenses and allow for deeper and more honest retrospection, the guarantee that no one else would ever know.
I violated that trust soon after I began to write, partly out of ego, my writing seemed rather insightful and I decided it deserved an audience. My inner voice protested the betrayal but as time went on, they relaxed allowing me to cast my pieces out into the world.
But last night was different. It was a public event, part of Art Walks, intended as an artistic walk about around Sonoma’s Plaza. I entered with my artsy and we created a curated show of her art and my words, called “Images and Insights” and sent in our application. To our surprise, we were accepted and found a welcoming host in Andy, the owner of Readers’ Books, who liked the mix of paint and printed word.
I’ve submitted my work and been published by a number of magazines and online sites. I’ve been a guest blogger and a regular contributor, but that always seemed less intimidating in that the reader was off somewhere, faceless, nameless, reading my work in the comfort of their own surroundings, while I inhabit my own, unaware they were consuming the fruits of my efforts.
I hadn’t thought much about how different this would be until I was preparing my work for the show, proof reading, editing and reading it as if I were a guest. Suddenly, it felt more intimate and I felt more uncomfortable.
I pushed past it, but as the guests wandered in, many old friends and acquaintances but mostly strangers, I struggled with my awkwardness, not sure what to say, how to explain the show, how to find refuse where I could avoid eye contact as people read my inner most thoughts over a chilled glass of French Rose.
I endured as several hours and nearly a hundred people drifted past me, some taking the time to share their thoughts, offer compliments, a few interested enough to actually purchase what I composed. And then it was over.
I drove home, a stew of mixed emotion, too exhausted to examine it before bed. But I awoke at first light feeling shamelessly exposed. I wondered how those who knew me saw this side of me.
It’s not a persona I wear beyond the privacy of my writing nook. I never talk about the topics I cover in my essays and it occurred to me that many probably never expected I had the capacity for it.
I also admitted, feeling sullen over my morning coffee, that discovering, cultivating and developing my creative side was only half of the equation, revealing and then publicly declaring it was another issue.
As the article demanded, it was time for me to stop hiding and embrace my creative identity. But how? And who is this creative being, how do I present her for all she is. I’ve not even found my writer’s voice. Instead a chorus of voices sings out, competing to be the writer I am yet to become. How do I embrace and introduce something still so nebulous and amorphic?
The writer in me seems so different from the classic type A personality I was for the first half of my life. She’s more introverted than I ever expected I could be. Writing has drawn me into myself and I’ve discovered I like it in there, preferring the solitude of my own thoughts over the constant chatter of the outside world.
I’ve spent thousands of hours sequestered behind closed doors, enveloped in the security of my own world, the writer’s world I’ve come to cherish; declining invitations with trumped up excuses to be left to my writing. There isn’t much I’d rather do now.
But last night I was outed; of my own volition admittedly, but it was indeed a coming out. And like Pandora’s box, what I’ve unleashed can never be put back under wraps.
So, allow me to present Fran Braga Meininger, writer. I’ll let the you decide who she is.