It’s strange to think about myself as brave. I’m not “that” brave. I’ve never been in any real danger. I’ve never had to defend myself in any situation that could be seen as life or death. When I think of bravery, I think first, of my spouse. That might sound corny, dimwitted, cheesy, and a host of other adjectives that demean or undermine. But what I really mean is, the man is brave. His friends are brave. I, in middle class suburbia, am not brave in the same context.
But I am a writer. And those two things: bravery and artistry do have an intense relationship. Not the Rob Lowe/Princess Stephanie kind of intense, but the Bogart/Bacall intense. Old Hollywood. Glamour. Drama. “The stuff dreams are made of.”
Artists have to be one part crazy, one part brave. And it is up to each artist to determine what that bravery means and what its boundaries are.
I made 2016 the year to be brave when it came to my writing. Channeling all of the Elizabeth Gilbert and Cheryl Strayed I could muster, I made the decision. This year, I will go out on a limb. I will publish something. I will write every day. I will share my work with a wider audience than my best friends and my family. I made a vow to take the chances that I encourage other people to take.
In January, I was in my shared office at work, and my friend asked me if I’d ever heard of Listen to Your Mother.
I told her that I hadn’t, and she e-mailed me a link to the audition information.
It’s a live storytelling event about motherhood and the experience of either being a mom or, of course, having a mom. It is a celebration of moms and motherhood.
I signed up to audition.
I planned on reading a piece that I wrote about my own mom and the experience of her being a breast cancer survivor.
I told only a handful of people about the audition because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Too much.
The night before the audition, I re-read the guidelines. My piece should be no longer than five minutes in length when read out loud.
Mine was at ten and closing in on eleven.
What the hell was I going to read?
My grandma piece. It’s a great piece!
I printed a copy and re-read it to myself. I’d written it earlier this year for the workshop in creative non-fiction that I am taking.
I love the piece and was in the process of actively revising it.
On February 13, I auditioned for LTYM and read that piece. I cried when I read it and I genuinely had a good time auditioning.
I told the handful of friends, including the one that encouraged me to audition in the first place, that the audition went well. So did hers and I had my fingers crossed that she’d get in. To be honest, I cared more that she got in than if I did. She’s a brilliant poet and I wanted to see her succeed.
Two weeks later, I checked my e-mail and there it was. “You’ve been selected for the Metro Detroit 2016 Cast.”
“Did you get a message from Listen to Your Mother?” I asked my friend.
“Yes, did you?”
“We made it!”
I was thrilled! My pledge to be brave was off to a great start.
Tonight, I experienced my first table reading with the cast. Me?! A part of a cast.
All day I worried about what the other writers might think. Was I good enough? Accomplished enough? I am in the company of writers with published work and others with books coming out soon. I have published and I have written, but my publishing history is entirely academic. These writers are doing the kind of work that I want to do. They are doing what I am meant to do.
But I belong there.
I listened to their stories and I was welcomed into their lives. I got an insight into these other women and the “brave bulb” went off over all of their heads as they read at the table.
I’ve finally come into my own as a writer. It’s like finally realizing that you’re never going to combat having stick straight, cork curly, or otherwise troublesome hair. Some things you just have to own.
I have taken the first step into being brave.
And my shoes are pretty damn amazing.