I had a letter, a rejection, from an agent once. Oh and I know you are not supposed to tattle tale, we must be professional, but as a ‘did I just read that or fall through a crack into an alternate universe’ moment, it is surpassed by none. Too bewildering, others said, for me to even take offence..
It all started well, praise and promise, I just needed, she suggested, to do a wee bit of an edit to clarify a couple of points. Mostly she was unsure if my unusually tall, recovering heroin-addict tattooist was a real pig or not…
This is the point in the story where people’s brows begin to contract. They search my text for mention of curly tails; check the date on the e-mail to make sure it wasn’t April the 1st. Eventually, just before their ears meet, they surrender slackly to the certainty that life just offered up another unravellable mystery, and I tried to dismiss it in the same fashion.
But it hit the button. I am sure everyone has one. I think I’m riddled with them. But this one was somewhat dormant until recently, or at the very least unnamed. The weirdo button. As in whit ya goan on aboot, ya weirdo?
I’ve always been somewhat out of sync. It didn’t evolve as it so often does, from being a bit fat and plain in high school, though I was; I didn’t fail to understand my fellow teens, prefer maths puzzles to boys. Boys are lovely, when they aren’t disgusting and my love was always deep and all-consuming for a while… I like toy story and cheap magazines, I’ve never much cared for foreign films and pretention is irritating.
Yet I was always aware of being different and the reason was always clear: My imagination. The stories were always there, they came with my very first words and I preferred them, often, to my friends..
So I became a chameleon. My imagination was a secret retreat, a constant friend, but I knew for my own sanity it was best to keep some of the flesh and blood type around too. I’m a great listener. I have learnt the art of conversation spotting – recognising the salient points, nodding at the right moment while most of the time my head is drifting. It’s a survival technique, I really don’t mean to ignore you.
But when I become a writer – when I set myself on the path towards publication, might be the better way of saying it – my secret side must become my most public. There is no hiding anymore and that fear has resurrected – I was the odd kid telling her favourite stuffed cat of all her adventures once again, but this time the neighbourhood was listening by the door. I think they were sniggering..
Am I too odd? Surely everyone belongs somewhere – the Tolkein geeks found each other, the Twillight devotees travel in rabid packs. And yet when I finally found a community of writers, nothing was any different. I found a world the same as it always was. It seems to belong anywhere you must sand yourself down, chip off the offending parts of your individuality.
I have different friends for different me’s: the outgoing sunny me, the art lover me, the political me and now the writer me. Yet looking at all these facets I realised that they may be nothing more than surfaces, reflecting what others need. The biggest part of me, the odd girl out, may still be completely concealed. Unless I publish…