Membership required….

January 26, 2007

When I was growing up I wasn’t much of a joiner. I was a smart kid, top of the class until high school, when the usual teenage angst set in. Mostly I was a quiet, somewhat socially-backward bookworm, who trembled at giving speeches and even reading aloud, who pretended to be sick the day of the junior high class play I was forced to participate in.

Join clubs or teams? Forget it. I could hold my own in gym class with kick ball, dodge ball, and softball, and I was a darned good football receiver if anyone ever let me play, but basketball terrified me and volleyball was just a fucked up mean-spirited game where someone missed the ball or failed to hit the right direction and was lambasted for it, and some bully would spike the ball into my horn-rim glasses. I was always about fifth from last in being chosen for teams unless one of my friends was choosing the teams that day. Except for ping pong and later, tennis, I wasn’t a very sports minded.

And of course, since I hated basketball nearly as much as volleyball, because basketball is nothing more than being criticized for not doing something correctly, the coach wanted me to play forward in junior high because of my height. I may have gotten a whole 15 minutes in during the lone season I played, with my father watching me from the stands as I sat at the far end of the bench with the one or two guys who played even less than I did.

About that time though I started writing for my own enjoyment, and it showed in my writing at school. Teachers and classmates liked what I wrote, and I came out of my shell in high school thanks to an apparent ability with words and a lucky affiliation via journalism with some of the more popular upperclassmen. I joined the school paper, wrote for the creative writing magazine, and even managed to join student council and help organize the Homecoming parade and dance. Life was immensely better the last two years of high school.

In my short college career, I wrote. I had a position with the university paper when I bailed from school. I continued to write, huddled in the bedroom of my apartment. I wrote science fiction. I read Writer’s Digest, books on writing. I submitted manuscripts and they came back. My writing suffered as I grew more involved with raising a family and making sure it was fed. For some reason I stopped writing science fiction and started writing other things, but that was okay. I got a couple of stories published, and then, right when I should have been pushing hardest, I stopped writing for ten years.

For the past few years I’ve been going to science fiction conventions, listening panels with writers and editors. I listen as this or that one talks about how they write, what their latest book is, about how to market and blog and keep trying. I can talk to most anyone, but for reason at these conventions, there is a part of me that always holds back, embarrassed that I didn’t succeed in the thing I wanted most, but didn’t have the discipline to do well enough. I am not intimidated by those who have succeeded, but by my own failure and doubt that I’ll ever accomplish anything again. I am held under the thumb of that inner editor who fills me with doubt when once I had confidence, and an ability I haven’t been able to hold onto for any length of time, for a long time.

This writers club is the one I want to join, the group I want to associate with, be one of those published writers on a panel at a convention. I want to write and sit with my friends, companions who write and publish and critique one another’s manuscripts in workshops at bed and breakfasts, that have the special pass for reserved VIP rooms at the end of hotel hallways.

The inner editor, that hateful self doubting thing that gives me a physical ache sometimes of melancholy and near-hopelessness, holds me back. I don’t even know how to begin to write anymore, and I sit at the back of the convention room like I sit at my desk at home, quiet, sometimes sad, sighing to myself. I can participate in the discussion on rare occasion, grab the autograph of someone I admire, and then run away, embarrassed by who I am, and angry at who I am not.


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