Tearing Down Walls

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Inspiration. For these posts, for me, it often comes on Sunday mornings.

On a Sunday morning in early September, I saw this story. It focused on a woman who insisted on displaying a Confederate flag in her front yard.

Her neighbors built tall wooden fences to block the view. She installed a taller flagpole. I won't tell you how it ended, but there was a twist in the woman's life that resulted in the climax.

The towering fences made me think of the walls we build around ourselves--as people and as writers. It made me reflect on my journey as a person and as a writer as I attempted to categorize the myriad of reasons why we construct barriers.

This is some of what I came up with:
  • The fear there's no talent. I recently read Lin Wilder's essay titled "Nostalgia."  Apparently she's been writing since she was in high school but it's only been recently that she's shared her work. I don't know why it's taken so long for Lin to declare herself a writer, but I was bowled over by her piece. I mean... the craftsmanship. Many writers I've met lack self-confidence. Do we have have talent or not? How do we know until we let down our guard and let others in?
  • The fear of being judged. You might be thinking, Whoa, Sioux! Isn't that the same as your first bullet? No, I mean sometimes we build walls because we're worried if we share personal stuff, we'll be judged as crazy. Easily riled up. Emotional. Depressed. From my perspective, we all have, uh... excrement in our lives. All of us either are messy ourselves or have messy families (or Dingdingding! We're the winner--we can check both boxes). It's just that some people are better at hiding it than others. I figure if somebody judges me without getting to know me, it's their loss. I'm an open book. I'm adopted, so I was rejected at birth. (Of course, the story's much more complicated than that, but that is how I felt at times.) I've made some stupid decisions when it comes to boys and men. (Haven't most women?) I have a brother who ruined my family with his addiction to OxyContin. (He's so estranged--and so strange--I don't even know where he lives or if he's still living.) I deal with depression. That's most of my mess. Judge me, or join me in a conversation about it as you get to know me. The choice is yours.
  • The fear we don't have a story to tell. I think everyone has a story to tell. I'm a firm believer that if we allow ourselves to get to our very essence, if we're brave enough to tell our story in an honest way, we'll end up with a compelling piece. I always tell my students that a great writer can write about ordinary things in an extraordinary way... and it ends up elevating/illuminating the subject. Case in point: one of my critique group partners has lived a fascinating life. Her childhood is a rich tapestry of events. She's lived in Alaska. She's been a single mother for part of her life. She found true love with a second marriage. More than once, we've tried to convince her to work on her memoir. Her response? "No way. Who would be interested in my life?" The truth? Just about everybody would be fascinated by her story. 
How about you? What kind of walls have you built around yourself... and how are you working to tear them down?

Sioux Roslawski is a teacher, a writer, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a writing accountability group member and a dog rescue volunteer. She's currently working on a historical novel for middle-grade readers... and it's slow-going right now. 


Maude Lynn said...

I still can't call myself a writer. Is there a test? I seem to be waiting for one or some sort of official documentation.

Renee Roberson said...

Lin's essay is amazing, isn't it? She takes the universal topic of losing a loved one while weaving in so many colorful layers it takes your breath away! For years I've worried about not being "good enough." My writing is never going to be as poetic or cerebral as other writers. I wish I could write that way, but it doesn't come to me naturally. Being rejected by two low-residency MFA programs several years ago didn't help my self esteem. But I hadn't written a lot of short fiction at that point which may have been a factor. I've finally come to terms with the fact that my writing won't be for everyone. But I feel like I have good ideas and can create suspenseful and unsettling stories, and someone will appreciate them! I'm over being held back by my fear of not being good enough.

Sioux Roslawski said...

MZ--The test is: Do you have an audience who loves your writing? Do you write on a regular basis? Do you have talent out the whazoo?

You can check each one with a resounding yes, so yes, you're a writer. ;)

Renee--I've been reading a historical novel ("I am Mrs. Jesse James"), and it frustrates me, because it is sooo on-point and it so immerses the reader into the era and the character, it makes me feel like my historical writing might be chopped liver. Time will tell. I love the conclusions that you've come to. You're more than "good enough."

Margo Dill said...

I think fear is a definite wall for me. I am now learning to fight that voice of doubt that I have given in to so many times before. But the silly thing is I always tell other writers I know: Most writers who doubt themselves have talent. It's the ones who don't we need to worry about. :)

Also I never listen to my own advice.

Micki Morency said...

Margo, I love your thinking. I have tons of doubt and have read published stuff that make me cringe. Sioux, this is a great post. It bolsters my courage.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Sioux! The fact that you're an open book is one of the things I love about you. :)

Fear is definitely a wall for me, and it stems from lack of self-confidence. I'm working my way through that now by taking writing classes and writing consistently. Like Margo mentioned, most writers doubt their work--even my instructors and authors who I admire doubt their work. One of my instructors comes to me when she's hesitant to push the submit button, and I tell her to go for it! And I think it's crazy because her work is amazing and I wish I could write like her. So I think we might not be able to see our work for what it really is to others. My wall right now is I don't submit anything. I'm finally starting to break through the fear though. Sometimes it takes a while to feel ready, and that's okay because my craft is getting stronger.

Btw, Renee, I've felt the same exact way about my prose not being poetic enough, and it's held me back. But when I took the Music, Truth, Towns class I finally realized that my work can be more poetic and cerebral than I ever imagined. So don't say never! If it's a tool that you want to add to your toolbox, it can be added. I'm not saying it has to because that type of writing isn't for everyone, but if you want to write that way or just add some in every once and a while, you can change your way of thinking and it will come naturally. :)

Sioux ~ I think YOU should write a memoir. I'd be first in line to buy it! :)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--You are right. It's the talentless whackadoos who are the ones always bragging about their work.

It sounds like you need to listen to your own advice... and follow it.

Micki--Me, too. Sometimes I read a book that makes me wonder how in the world it ever appealed to anybody, to the point that it got published. And thanks for the kind words.

Angela--If I did, it would be a mash-up of Leave It to Beaver and Sybil and Up the Down Staircase... but thanks.

The more you talk about that class, the more I want to take it. Do you think it will be offered again... with the same instructor?

Joanne said...

Sioux, amazing story, amazing insights you drew from it. It's late at night as I'm writing this, after a day of pounding out sentences to meet a freelance deadline, so I think I've used up all my words. Forgive me for not coming up with anything more precise, more specific, than "amazing." But know that you are.

Sioux Roslawski said...

J. Glenn--Thanks. That was so kind. People have used the word "amazing" with me before, but it's usually, "That is an amazing shade of orange your hair is." ;)

Linda O'Connell said...

You are so correct when you say it is as simple as writing about ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Thanks for the push.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Linda--You are the one with the extraordinary life. AND you write in an extraordinary way.

(And I figured it was only fair, since you nudge me along on a regular basis. ;)

Preeti Saxena said...

Life is not that easy for a women especially if she is a housewife as well as working women . Starting from 5am in the morning till 11 at night ...life becomes an automatic machine ....driving for office ......completing your assignment given by your boss ......listening to good or bad comments as a professional and then back home in afternoon ....switching off your office mode and the home mode is made on .....ready to look your household work ...pending and new offcourse....

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