"I admit that I worry too much about coming off seeming 'stupid.' My ingrained pessimism gets the best of me and prevents me from throwing myself in positions where I’m proven otherwise. Who wants to be told to shut up; we don’t want to hear what you have to say! I grew up with those exact words."

"The older I got, the less I felt I wanted to share what I knew or thought. I turned inward to the safety of my own imagination with my words and books. But a sabelotodo can only hold so much back." (Ok, I wouldn't use the word sabelotodo [just had to look it up on SpanishDict]. I probably say something about getting above my raisin'.)

"I tend to think about the past in patterns. Essays stitch those patterns into something meaningful."

"So, here’s one: I remember when I was seven years old, sitting on a floor and scribbling down words on an old notebook. I had the urge to make meaning but something stopped me. I’d momentarily stare at my words before crumpling them up, stuffing them in my mouth, then chewing them into a scrap of unrecognizable inky goo. I had this habit for years and aside from having pen ink permanently staining my teeth, I never took that urge beyond that point." (The taste of paper is one of my most tactile childhood memories.)

"But what struck fear in me in conversation as it does in essay writing is acknowledging that tiny uncharted space where one can be misunderstood. This lack of control for that gap in understanding has often set me off in a panic, and then I become erratic and squirrely. It took years to feel comfortable in conversations, and took coming to terms with believing in who I was and how I projected that out to others."

"My best friend once told me he admired my ability to be so vulnerable, to lay myself out there in ways he couldn’t. I learned this from my mother. I don’t know how to stop."

"Here’s where my past returns: out of nowhere during my panel at NonfictionNOW, I obsess over what type of writer I am—that outward conversationalist of the world I didn’t grow up in or the inward writer that was born out of necessity? Then I question my own authority about speaking at a conference. Is it the publishing of a memoir or a collection of essays (two things I’ve yet to accomplish) or is simply being a practitioner of the genre enough? How do I know whether I have some incisive thing to say? Who determines all of this?" (I felt the EXACT SAME WAY at the conference, especially presenting on my as-yet-unpublished book of essays.)

"Achievement makes me nervous…"

Amen, brother.

Read the rest here!

AuthorJohn Proctor