Friday Speak Out!: Words

Friday, October 24, 2014
by Elizabeth Joyce

I worry about the significance of my writing. Like a nervous actor auditioning for a play, my thoughts take a negative turn as words appear on a computer screen. Is my experience enough to warrant attention? The ideas that float in my head stubbornly squeeze out two sentences. I freeze on the empty stage wondering how to get through the next few minutes.

This dangerous moment resulted from memories of being the last one picked on a team in gym class. I remember the disappointed looks as I joined the group of kids. Everyone knew I wasn’t well coordinated to throw a ball in a hoop or run to first base. The feeling of not being able to perform stayed with me until I graduated high school.

Writing helped me feel successful. In my twenties, I joined a playwriting group and found joy in creating dialogue. I’d come home after work to gather characters in a restaurant or house to talk about their troubles. Soon my plays were produced in a local theater company. No longer did I feel useless.

But one year a friend laughed at a line I wrote in one of my plays during rehearsal. The premise of the story was about a young woman mourning her recently deceased grandmother. She reminisces about a special ritual of them “Buying french fries at McDonald’s after attending Sunday Mass.” The hurt I felt from my friend stayed with me. I was also ashamed for not defending my writing. It was too late to demand an apology for her insensitivity.

It caused me to wonder about what I had to offer as a writer. Were my stories too sentimental? I wanted to be a writer who could offer insights. Lingered doubts of my own philosophy ballooned like an elephant. Instead carefree writing sessions became a battle of rewriting and deleting. The internal editor emerged and squelched my creativity.

I decided to take a break from writing. I joined an improvisation class and acted in a children’s Christmas play in order to fill the void. It didn’t work because like sports, it wasn’t where I belonged. Then I read about an adult education course on writing personal essays. I didn’t know if I had stories worthy to tell. Then I heard the same advice my mother used to tell “Write what you know.”

I read through my old journals and listened to my father’s stories of him growing up as the second oldest of nine children during the Depression. I decided to write positive stories of family, love and hope. I’m proud of what I want to write. Next time someone laughs, I’ll just have to fight back because this time I’m not backing down.

Summoning up conviction, the actor remembers her monologue and I find inspiration. We both toss aside worries to do what we love. The spotlight focuses on the facial expressions while the keyboard taps out a beginning, middle, and an end.

* * *
Elizabeth Joyce is an assistant children’s librarian at Ruth Keeler Library in North Salem and Brewster Public Library in Brewster NY. Her plays have been produced by the Brewster Theater Company. Elizabeth’s personal essay, “Acceptance” and her short story, “The Candle” have been published in the North Salem Review publications. She belongs to the Fairfield Writer’s Group in Connecticut. 

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Barbara Barth said...

Elizabeth - lovely post. I write mostly about my life. It is a small quiet life with six dogs. Sometimes I wonder who really wants to read what my life views are (although folks like to hear about six dogs!) and then my dear friend asked me a few years back as I was talking about a follow-up to my widow memoir on lesser topics . ."Why would you write that. Who will care?" I was crushed. Writing for me allows me to clear my head. Some basic life experiences, fears, concerns and happy moments are universal and people do care and can relate. If one person leaves a comment for me I feel I've connected to the universe and it is a good feeling. I write what I feel and if you write from the heart that is all you need. Congrats on your plays! And your great post here. It hit home to me as you can tell by my rambling.

Margo Dill said...

I am so sorry you had that experience! It's terrible to worry about everything you write--we already worry enough as it is. But I wonder if the best way to show someone they don't bother us is to write anyway. And then if you have any success--well, that's the icing on the cake, as the saying goes. :) Best of luck to you!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Elizabeth--Margo said that any success is like icing on the cake. I say that any success is like thumbing your nose at those who have discouraged you, as if you're saying, "Na na na na na naa. You thought my writing was 'laughable'? Well, see there! You were wrong. My writing is publishable!"

Good luck with your writing. I hope your writing group is supportive, encouraging and challenging. Supportive of you when your work is rejected. Encouraging, so they keep you wanting to write more. Challenging you to write outside your box so your horizons expand.

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