I’ve never really talked about this in depth with anyone, so, writing it makes my stomach tighten up and my heart blip.
Disclaimer: Everything I’m going to talk about in these posts is as true as I can make it – my memory is terrible, and though I’ve kept records when I could I can’t guarantee there won’t be a few timeline errors or misremembered facts.
It’s a pretty long one, so I’m going to have to snip it into bite-sized pieces (well, big bites – this is me we’re talking about). I’m not going to bother giving it out in chronological order; I want to tell the parts that matter most while they still matter.
You see, not long ago I read an extremely popular book by an extremely popular online guru, and while it wasn’t the most inspiring thing I’ve ever read (this whole thing where self-helpy not-quite-about-business-and-not-quite-about-anything-else books have eighty different typefaces and bold every other line might be useful for people with the attention span of a gnat, but it gets kind of irksome for those of us who read things longer than blog posts), it did have some cool concepts, and together with some other reading I’ve done lately it got me thinking about the dreaded buzzword “authenticity.”
Use these authentic practices and your authentic self will emerge and live an authentic life of authenticity! Especially if you spend $100 on my book/e-course combo and another $200 for a year’s membership in the Authenticity Club!
I’ve known for quite a while that my aversion to the word was tied up with, well, my total lack of it. For years now I’ve been watching the person I used to be – the person I was when I started this blog, when I wrote my first book, when I was in my 20s and happier and in better shape and more social and on fewer medications – worn down into dust behind a gradually eroding shell of herself. I tried to inhabit that shell for as long as I could, but finally I was standing surrounded by the fossilized remains of Dianne Sylvan the Pagan Writer and Teacher, holding only a name tag and a ritual robe that no longer fit.
Parts of it had never fit in the first place, but that was no longer relevant.
Who had I become? I threw myself into the identity of novelist, and since that was what I’d always wanted anyway figured it was all upward from here.
Then my publisher decided to discontinue the series I’d poured my heart into since 1999, and just like that, an already fragile self-esteem standing on shifting sands tumbled over and fell apart. It wasn’t the end of my writing career – but it felt like it was. It felt like I had failed at the one thing I’d always thought I was meant to do…that I had failed at being myself.
(This was all, of course, blown way out of proportion by my imbalanced brain and paper-thin ego; I’m well aware that the publishing industry is in kind of a tailspin and it’s not a reflection on my talent. But there’s really no way to take someone telling you you’re not a good investment anything but personally.)
It’s taken over a year to get back to a place where writing feels good again. I find myself staying up late to finish a scene, something I hadn’t done in months. When I realized that posting chapters one by one like in the Days of Fanfic Yore was making me feel excited, I hatched the idea for my Patreon, hoping I could make writing what I loved lucrative again.
Still, those questions of identity and purpose remain. Here I am, 37 years old, with no idea who I am – after years and years of relentless self-examination the way only a Scorpio can manage it!
As I mentioned a while back the Gretchen Ruben book about habits emphasizes that you can’t expect yourself to change if you try to do things as someone else. You have to meet yourself where you are, work with the tools you’ve got in your toolbox rather than standing around wishing you could leap into discipline like a lean teenaged greyhound. That’s where all of this started in my mind, trying to work through her questions and figure out how I really do things. Far too many of my answers were “I don’t know.”
I know that these sorts of thoughts can take a lifetime to make sense of; I have no illusions that I’m going to magically poof into The Authentic ™ Me. I’m not after epiphanies or revelations, though if some were to come my way I wouldn’t protest. But that’s not really the goal.
The goal is to tell a story.
Part One – Coming Monday.
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