As a child I was timid. I learned early on that my opinions did not matter. If they were heard at all, they were argued with or denied. I did not excel in school. I kept to myself mostly. I roamed the neighborhood. I drew and read and visited nature a lot.
I carried my timidity into adolescence. And then I started smoking pot. I’m not going to lie to you, pot was a psychological life saver. It helped. I found out I was funny. It was the sixties and if you smoked pot, that was enough to bond over. You had friends. I had friends. Lots of them.
But I was still timid. I still didn’t speak up for myself. When I did, it was scary and I shook and I obsessed over the slightest conflict for days. Weeks. Usually I was the one to apologize, even if I thought the other person should apologize to me. I was a peacemaker. At my own expense.
The place I never had to apologize was on the page. I was a prolific journaler. This worked for me in the same way pot did. It eased things, and after many years I tried my hand at fiction. And I wrote and published a few books. And at times I have had to fight for the hearts of those books. I have had to be fierce about my visions for my work. Naturally, my vision includes the best seller list, Oprah’s Book Club, and all that, but my fiercest loyalties have always lain with the characters and the story. If I feel these things threatened, even at the alleged promise of financial success, I say no. No, we won’t compromise the story. No, I won’t add more material where it’s not needed. No, I’m not going to change that.
Writing led me out of my timidity and I’m grateful for that. I am also grateful for the timidity. It made me quiet. It made me an observer. It made me learn to collect details from the world around me. It made me autonomous and it made me a writer because it was the page that received me fully. But it was also the page that delivered me from timidity and made me fierce. Funny how these things work out.