Every week, I take my two children to music lessons. While waiting for my kids to do their hour of piano practice, I sit in the studio waiting room and either catch up on my editing work or my writing. However, in the past six months, I have been distracted from my tasks by a variety of shifty-looking people passing outside the windows on their way to the office building next door. These people are all from different walks of life, but all have one thing in common: a look of guilt and furtiveness in their mannerisms. For example, nearly every single one of them looks around first before opening the unmarked, frosted glass door (which in itself is suspect, as there is no business name on the outside). When these people emerge a short time later, they look nervously around again in a way that invites suspicion, then hang their heads and rush off. Their body language screams, "I've been engaging in something nefarious. I'm up to no good!"
Other people in the music studio have noticed it, too: this suspicious behavior and strange body language of the people going in and out of that darkened office next door. We've started taking bets as to what's going on behind those frosted glass panes. Some think it's an underground drug-dealing operation. Others think it's a money-laundering place. One parent suggested a "massage parlor," although you'd think the people would leave looking a little happier if that were the case.
Finally, curiosity and the desire to keep my children safe from dangerous elements got the better of me, and I decided to do some investigating. I didn't want to actually go into the place in case it was run by armed thugs who'd "disappear me" with a snap of their fingers (or guns). So instead, I took to the Internet. Within a short time, I found out that that address was registered to a place called "Magic Waters." I brought the info back to the music studio, and a new round of speculation began between the parents. Was it a home-birthing studio? A place that sold LSD-infused mineral water? A jacuzzi sex-motel that rented rooms by the hour?
Further confused, I did more research, and finally stumbled upon the answer: Magic Waters was a colon cleansing place (or colonic irrigation, also called colon hydrotherapy). This was such a relief (no pun intended)! It was nice to know that my kids weren't taking music lessons next to a drug-dealing operation or a jacuzzi motel but instead an innocuous poop-washing business. The other parents were relieved as well, and we all had a good laugh. However, the whole thing gave me pause and begged the following questions:
A.) If you're getting your colon flushed out, shouldn't you presumably feel refreshed and exhilarated afterward? (I've never had one, so I'm surmising here).
B.) If the answer to A is yes, then why all the suspicious body language, head-hanging, and shifty-eyed behavior?
C.) If the answer to B is embarrassment (which is likely since there's a bit of stigma attached to such an, er, invasive procedure), then that leads to the next question: Why? Why feel ashamed for a choice you obviously put your time, money, and energy into? Why not own your decision and be proud of it?
This led me to do some thinking about the whole book writing process. (Yep, there's a poop analogy in here somewhere.) So many writers, after spending years writing their books and getting them ready for publication, are still unwilling to admit they're authors. They're filled with self-doubt and a certain amount of shame, which might have something to do with the judgment that fills the air the minute someone asks what you do for a living, and you reply, "Writer." If you're not a best-selling name that everyone knows, people's faces automatically fill with pity. You can see them thinking, "Poor, delusional, misguided soul." They reply, "Oh, that's nice," in the same tone they use for lifetime out-of-work-actors. Their next question is invariably, "So what do you write about?" The author's reaction is often to act embarrassed and shifty-eyed and up to no good. They say things like, "Oh, I don't know. This and that," so as not to be further judged (especially if writing Justin Bieber biographies). They give vague answers, look around, change the subject, etc., all the while their body is language shouting from the rooftops: "I don't stand behind my decision. I don't believe in what I do." This further adds to the sense of skepticism about what a writer actually is or does... and who is worthy of wearing the title.
This begs the next question: why do writers do this to themselves? As authors, why not own what they do and be proud of it, even if they're not NY Times bestsellers (yet)? After all, they've spent time, energy and money getting their books as perfect and clean as possible, just like a colon after hydrotherapy. Yet so often, they hang their heads and act ashamed about what they do. Why not stand tall and say proudly, "I'm a writer, and a damn good one, too!" Okay, maybe some people might already do that, but none of the writers I've ever met. Instead, they meekly hand their books to their friends and family and say, "I'd be ever so grateful if you'd read this for me. I really hope you like it. But if you don't, I understand. My feelings won't be hurt. It's probably shit anyway." (I swear, I'm not trying to make up these analogies, they're just coming out . . . oops, I did it again). These are the same authors who think, "I hope no one from work finds out I write YA paranormal romantic-comedies about shape-shifting alligators. Might impact my reputation as a suit-wearing corpse," or, "If Polly PTA finds out what I do, my kid will be blacklisted from recess because her mom writes mommy-erotica that makes Fifty Shades look like Mary Poppins."
This is a shame. Every decision that we consciously make to better our lives we should own with confidence and pride. If it's getting a colon cleanse, then so be it. If it's writing books that the neighbors might raise an eyebrow at, so be it. If it's making choices that others disagree with or judge, then so be it. If we do something that brings us joy and doesn't hurt others, then we should be happy about it, simple as that. Those colon irrigators (irrigatees?) should emerge from being those frosted glass doors with a skip in their step and a big, joyful grin. After all, they just cleaned out a lot of . . . okay, I won't go there. They a paid a lot of money for it, too, and took time out of their busy schedules to lie down on a table and, well, reboot the booty (I couldn't resist). They must believe in what they're doing somewhere deep inside (sorry). After all, they committed to it. So why not own it? Why not stand tall instead of scurrying by as if having just sold meth to a granny? They've made a choice to do something good for themselves, and that is something to have a little pride in, even if no one else "gets" it.
Same goes for book writing. Following our dreams is a good thing. Spending time doing what we love is admirable. Taking time out of every day to put words to paper, in the hope of entertaining readers some day, is downright beautiful. We writers should never hang our heads in embarrassment or shame just because we haven't sold a gazillion books or made huge names for ourselves (yet). We should have confidence in who we are and what we do. We're writers. We became writers the minute we chose to put words on paper instead of doing something else with our time. And that is something to be proud, from the top of our heads all the way down to our bowels. (Okay, I'll stop now).