I repeat these words over and over in the novel I’m writing. “My life is not my own,” says Iylah, a 14-year-old girl who has been hidden away her entire life to fulfill her mother’s destiny. “My feelings are not my own.” She then goes on to figure out what is her life, and what she does actually feel.
As I sit down to edit my novel for the fifth time, I’m realizing how much these words resonate in my real life, and even throughout this novel I’ve been writing.
My words were not my own. Many of them were, but many of them weren’t.
It’s been nearly four years, five drafts, two cities and two first name changes of the main character since I started my second novel. It’s only now that I’m realizing that I haven’t even been writing the book I wanted to write.
This is hard to admit because that is a lot of time dedicated to a book that isn’t entirely mine.
It makes sense. I started this book with a partner, a writing partner. So, I felt obliged to follow some semblance of the story that we had created together, eagerly writing every day to please him and our story. He gave me the book back a long time ago, and yet it’s taken another two years to realize I was still writing for him and for others.
In fact, there are so many layers of my life that have been “written for him or for others” that sometimes I’m amazed how many of the layers there are still to go.
I wonder how many other women (people) feel this way.
We think we are living our own lives. We think that we are feeling our own emotions. We think that we are thinking our own thoughts. And then, suddenly, we hear something, see something and feel something so authentic it shakes us to our bones and everything is questioned.
The simplest questions are: Do I even like wearing makeup? (Current answer: Yes) Do I really think that joke is funny? (Sometimes) Do I really want to drink white wine? (Hell No)
Then the questions get more complicated: Do I actually want children, or have I just assumed that’s my role? Do I even want to be in a traditional, romantic relationship, or am I just following what I’ve been fed in the movies? Have I ever liked the way a man has made love to me, or have I just been acting something out that I thought he wanted?
Understanding what truly feels joyous is what I’m practicing, and realizing how often that can change is the trick. This is what awareness is for me – checking into those spaces, and making sure that my WHY (yes, there’s that WHY again) is still there and still meaningful.
And, realizing perhaps that there have been many times where the WHY wasn’t mine at all.
I will still finish my book by taking out the old energy that no longer fits with where I want it to go. It will take me longer to do this, and perhaps will be less appealing to the commercial market because of this.
However, I’m learning that I don’t give a f*ck.
This is my life, my novel. I’m doing what brings me joy.
I’m writing it this time.