Yesterday, I got my sales reports/royalty statements for both my books. This was depressing and I have been doing battle with the writing demons ever since: Why should I bother to write? Why do I write about women no one cares about? Why don’t I write murder/sex novels? But there is something galvanizing about asking these questions because then I have to answer them if I ever want to type a word again. So, the answers: 1) I bother to write because I feel sick if I don’t; it’s not really optional 2) I care about these women and I write about them precisely because people do Not care about them and 3) I am not interested in reading murder/sex novels, so why would I write them? That is always an invigorating exercise. But the invigoration only lasts a second, then self-laceration returns.
So, then I turn to my personal writing history: I began as a poet with no expectation anyone would ever read me. I trained myself to expect nothing — no audience. no publication. I’d cast about for role models. There were the great female suicides. And Emily Dickinson. Her career still ticks along, but not when she was alive. Still, at least she did not kill herself, so I selected her as a role model. Not that I wore white or anything, but in the staying true to my art who cares if no one reads me sense. But eventually this was not enough. I want more than what Dickinson got; she certainly wanted more; hence her resort to all that ferocious letter writing. I am sure she would have blogged if she had the chance.
Maybe this is why I write the kind of books I write, the kind that attempt to give the other Emily Dickinsons, the women we don’t know and who did not have enough of a chance, another chance — a chance to be heard. A few weeks ago, my shrink asked me who I am trying to rescue. I don’t know. Me, my mom, my sisters. Mary Wollstonecraft, Anne Bradstreet, even Hagar — but what from? Silence. Obscurity. Being overlooked. Being misunderstood.