[dropcap]A[/dropcap]uthenticity is a concept I’ve thought about a lot since moving to North Carolina.
So, JJ, you might ask, where have you been?
Nowhere, really. And everywhere. I’ve been in North Carolina, I’ve been in Charleston. I’ve been back to New York for a wedding, and down to Charlottesville for another. I’ve been home in Los Angeles, and then back again to my adopted home in North Carolina.
But where have you been online? Ah, that’s the real question, isn’t it?
There are a few reasons I’ve been reticent about blogging. The first (and most important) is that my life is pretty dull. In a good way. We have a house, I’ve built a spice rack, I’ve started and then stalled out on reupholstering my dad’s armchair, we got a dog, and I have a job. The second (and more relevant) reason is that I have a job. The job thing is really the reason I haven’t been blogging much. The job itself is unglamormous, un-publishing-related, and un-internet-able. (Shut up, Shakespeare made up words, and so will I.)
So the majority of my days are generally spent on my phone, racking up my wireless bill as I lurk on Twitter and refresh my feed aggregator app ad nauseum. Because the hours I work fall outside the normal 9 to 5. Because my breaks are so rigidly scheduled I have no time for any personal things. Because by the time I get home, I don’t want to do anything but read and snuggle with my dog (and White-Harp). And write.
It’s the writing thing I have trouble being authentic about.
It’s an open secret that I write. I’ve always written. I’ve been writing since I learned that letters strung together made words strung together made images in the mind. But I’ve never really been out and proud about my fiction predilection.
I’m not entirely sure why. I’m not exactly a private person; I’ve been fairly candid online about my personal life for years (since the days of Livejournal—remember Livejournal?). But perhaps that’s not the whole truth; I’ve been candid about the facts in my life, but not so much my feelings.
Ah, feelings. Facts are distancing, but emotions are personal. I don’t talk about my hopes, my dreams, my fears in a public space. It’s too revealing. It makes me too vulnerable. To what? To whom? I don’t know. Perhaps it the fear of being made a fool somehow, in a place where everyone can see. I don’t care what people think of me, or rather, I don’t care if people make judgements about the Fact of Me. I’m bipolar. I’m opinionated. I’m overconfident. I’m vain. I’m shallow. I’m selfish. I can also be vindictive and petty. These are my facts.
But my feelings are another matter, especially those of a hopeful, wistful, fantastic nature. Hope is a private thing, and perhaps I suffer from the fear of having my hopes dashed the moment I reveal them. Disappointment is so much more humiliating when played out in public. Better to conceal. Better not to feel anything at all than to feel hurt.
Even now I’m avoiding the subject of my own writing. I don’t want to admit to it, like it’s a shameful addiction I don’t want known in polite company. It’s not as though I don’t share my writing with people; I do. But it’s generally the same intimate group of people with whom I share my other secrets. Writing is just another one of them.
For me, writing was always something hidden, something occult, the existence of which I obfuscated with other things: my hobbies, my habits, my career. I am not my passion for photography, I am not my dilettante’s interest in music, I am not my occasional forays into art, I am not my job. But writing is a part of who I am. It is utterly inextricable from the warp and weft of JJ. To judge my writing is to judge me.
It’s not the end product that defines me; it’s the act of creation itself. Words on a page simply become another fact, another distancing thing. Another novel finished, another book put aside. But putting words on the page, that is painful, private, and oh-so-pleasurable.
Those who know I write sometimes ask if I want to pursue publication. I do. And I have. But always with half a heart, always holding hope at arm’s length. I both want and don’t want to be published. I want it because I want to share my words with a larger audience, but I don’t want it because to do so would be exposing who I really am to prying eyes.
Back in New York, I was an editor. I loved being an editor; I loved reading manuscripts, I loved refining other people’s words, I loved sharing these words with world. I loved all the book babies I helped birth and mourned the book babies that COULD HAVE BEEN MINE! if only the stars aligned for us. I loved being an editor. But I also loved how I could hide behind it.
I was always reticent about letting people “in the biz” know that I wrote. I was afraid that admitting my addiction would somehow sully the way the others perceived my intentions. Oh you only got a job in publishing as a way to get published yourself. Oh, you must be a failed writer. Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t write, edit, eh? I knew these fears were unfounded; I knew plenty of people who straddled both sides of the publishing fence, some of whom were my closest friends. I never once judged them for being both a writer and an agent or editor. Most of the time I marveled and admired that they were able to do both so well.
I still wrote when I was working in publishing. But it was hard. Finding time was a hard, but harder still was finding what was left of myself to write after pouring so much of my energy into other people’s books. But that was okay because it was safe; I could still write, and I could hide behind my job.
And then early in 2013, I got a phone call that changed my life. Bear, who at that time was still a medical student, called to say that he got Matched.1
In North Carolina.
In one fell swoop, the mask I’ve hidden behind for so many years is taken away from me. Down South, I wouldn’t be JJ, an editor, I’d be JJ…a writer?
(I’m certainly not JJ, a drone at her current job that doesn’t allow her internet access or time for unscheduled bathroom breaks or personal calls.)
My southern adventure has been marvelous in many ways. Down here, I have time. And space. Not just physically, but emotionally. Down here, I can explore who I am.
The hard part is being open about it.
So here’s me being open about it. I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. And this year, I will promise to live and be public as a writer, published or not.
I suppose this is the part where I tell you I’m now officially represented by Katelyn Detweiler at Jill Grinberg Literary Agency. 🙂
- Just in case people aren’t aware of what the Match system is, as medical students finish school, they apply for residencies in the specialties they want to pursue (e.g. internal medicine, surgery, oncology, etc.). A lot of time (and money) is spent interviewing at various programs, after which the students rank their top programs in order of preference. The hospitals then rank potential residents interviewed, in their order of preference. The system then matches the residents with the programs, based on where the top preferences overlap on both sides. Once matched, the students are legally bound to go. ↩