Junior high was a painful time for me. Incredibly painful. Like, braces-and-glasses-and-bad-shag-haircut painful. I would post a picture, but seriously, I just wouldn’t sleep tonight knowing that kind of image was on the loose, flying around the internet for all to see. And if I’m totally honest, you probably wouldn’t sleep either. Not with something that frightening burned into your retinas.
So anyway, I was insecure in junior high. I realize I’m in good company here as everyone suffers from some degree of hideousness during their tween years, but I really think I might have been one of the worst. I used to go to the bathroom during class just to get away from my classmates because I worried so much about their opinions of me. I hated P.E. because I felt like my shorts and tennis shoes highlighted my flamingo-like legs and clown-sized feet. And dances?
Oh, don’t even go there.
I spent most of my time on the dance floor laughing too loud at someone’s joke in an attempt to look relaxed, or lingering by the punch table because I wasn’t sure who to talk to, or – you guessed it – hiding in the bathroom stall just to get a break from the stress of the whole thing.
And you know what? Not much has changed.
Oh, I’m not nearly as skinny as I was then, which is actually a very good thing (no more flamingo legs!). I no longer wear the ugly gold-rimmed glasses I wore back then, and I don’t have braces anymore, and my hair doesn’t look like a cross between Carol Brady and Hermione Granger.
(I know that kind of hairstyle cross-breeding doesn’t sound possible and is probably very difficult to imagine, but just trust me on this one. It happened.)
No, there aren’t nearly as many body issues now as there were then, but still I find myself suffering from sometimes crippling bouts of insecurity. Especially now, as The Clearing will be coming out in a few short weeks. Questions bounce all around inside my head: Will everyone like it? Will anyone like it? Is this part too boring? Is this part too cheesy? What about the voice? Will everyone think it’s stupid?
I started writing The Clearing in August of 2008, and I’ve just read it through for the first time since I finished it sometime in 2009. I’ve grown so much as a writer, which is both a good and bad thing: Good in that I’ve improved so much, but bad in that a part of me wants to go back and rewrite the whole thing.
Sure, there are things I would do differently now if I were writing it for the first time. But I can’t go back and do it all again. There’s no time, and anyway, as soon as I finished rewriting it I would read it again and think: Nah, this isn’t good enough. I’ve grown as a writer again.
If you’re a writer, you know it’s never good enough. We can edit and revise and rework until the day we die, and it’s never good enough. Every time you read it with fresh eyes, you see things you want to change. I’ve got two pages of small edits I want to do before the book is available for purchase, and believe me when I say, those two pages? Tip of the iceberg, my friends.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s good. It’s really good. I say that not to brag, but to show you that I do have some confidence in my work. I absolutely love the story I’ve crafted, and deep down, I know a lot of other people will love it too. It’s just that I suffer from the same doubts as anyone else: How will other people judge my work?
What about you? Do you find yourself feeling slightly embarrassed at the thought of other people reading your stories? Does part of you want to go hide in the bathroom stall until it’s over? Or are you that enviable person with no qualms about it whatsoever? I’m interested to hear your thoughts!