Hiding in My House
Essay By Christine St. Germain
I guess I became a writer when my Mom tried forcing me to write paragraphs whenever I got in trouble, and I decided to get ahead of her by writing them in advance. At that point, she stopped using that form of punishment, and that summer she told me, in response to my complaining that I didn’t have anything fun to do, “Maybe you should write a book.” I looked at her askance, wheels turning in my head. I didn’t have the heart to say that anything I would write from personal experience up to that point would certainly bring social services or the police to our door.
So, I’ve kept my writing to myself now for over 50 years—novels, stories, exposés, nonfiction, children’s stories, thrillers—in anticipation of the right environment, hiding in my house, to protect myself. From criticism. From comradery. From the demands of maybe being successful enough to create expectations of myself that I might not know how to handle. From being exposed. But lately I’ve identified a new strategy.
The Internet. It’s an insulated world with versatile rules that limit access to me and allow me to hide in a much bigger house. A digital barrier between me and the primordial soup of humanity—readers, authors, markets, fans, critics, and detractors. I used to be afraid of them. They represent an unknown. But recently it dawned on me. I was at a conference for writers, mostly women, and I looked around and realized how much I have in common with so many of them. How easy they were to talk to and get to know. Here they were, gathering together to share intimate secrets of their own through writing, overcoming the intimidating bigness of the world, sharing their innermost thoughts. We were all partly already friends because of what we had in common.
I decided if I just look at marketing and distributing my work as an exercise in looking for friends, using the publishing of my writing as a search engine to connect me to people who think like I do, who like what I write, I wouldn’t have to be scared of the world at all. In fact, social media lets me screen out people who don’t like what I like, or what I write about it. I can just happily let them go, out of my world. Block them if I have to. It’s like creating a friendly pocket universe of my own out of the mass of undifferentiated humanity that pools geographically around me.
I liked the thought so much that I gave up my fear of the Internet and of the crowds of fans and critics and vowed just to stick with those that I considered friends. In the next few months, I met dozens of friends—authors who wrote similar subgenres to mine, Nano friends in my area who liked to write together and share tips, I even met a publisher at a conference, who upon just hearing about my book, told me he’d publish it. I didn’t take it as a commitment, but as encouragement and it felt great!
I realize that an editor or publisher is a relationship that should be a very close one—never one that’s forced or accommodated because of a lack of other opportunity—one that I want to keep for a decade. I want to like that person a lot, like working with them, like talking to them on the phone, like how they treat me and other people. It’s a friendship, but more than that, it’s a collaboration in which each relies upon the other to do their job with the integrity that is common to that collaboration and to accommodate each other’s limitations, frailties, and fears. To grow together. I want them to like me and like working with me. My publisher. My editor. My fans.
What if, instead of writing being a hobby, an ego trip, a cry for help, or a part-time job with lousy pay (at least at the beginning), it could be a beneficent, beautiful experience of self-expression—better for my soul than the more lucrative jobs I had, working for some anonymous amoral authority who was willing to pay me six figures to rent my brain? A creative adventure, an enterprise in which you bring out the best in each other?
My new motto is not to worry whether I need to adapt myself to the environment so other people will like me or my work, but to be myself so that the right people will like me and my work, people I will enjoy spending my life with while being myself and writing about what I believe needs to be said.
It’s a wholistic healthy expectation.
If I write a romance with a hot love scene in it and some reader thinks that means I want to “do that” with them, I’m insulated—they don’t know my address or even my state, unless I tell them.
Writers have a reputation for being more cerebral than effusive, by and large, but women who have to overcome abuse experiences are more likely to fear exposure of their innermost sharing through their writing than others. In this age I think Elizabeth Browning, and writers like her who otherwise might feel intimidated to share themselves with the outside world would feel that the outside world gives them a room of their own that juts out into the outside world, through the protections of social media. !
Christine St. Germain is a budding fiction author of Transformational Entertainment which uses thrillers and dramatic fiction to illustrate transformational principles. She is also a blogger and a quiet guru of spiritual wisdom living in St. Cloud, MN. For info about the author, visit ChristineStGermain.wordpress.com.