I'm an expert mask wearer. In fact, I've spent a large portion of my life wearing masks.I have them in every color, for every season, and I never run out.
When I was younger, I learned the art of mask wearing so no one would know all the pain in my life. If it could be hidden then it didn't exist. If I could smile, could keep going, could convince one more person that everything was "perfect," then I succeeded and could fall into a deep, comforting sleep for one more night.
Then, of course, you grow up.
You learn that masks aren't all they're cracked up to be. They're stuffy, hot and truthfully, very lonely. No one is perfect. In fact, perfection is subjective and quite possibly, doesn't exist at all.
I don't know about anyone else, but for me, perfection is one of those masks that's so easy to put on. Even my own job told me once to "Be a duck on a pond." They encouraged me to have this calm, everything is perfect and peaceful way about me on the outside--even if underneath the surface I'm kicking my feet just trying to stay afloat. In other words: be perfect. So I do that every single day at work.
We're not alone. Once we move past this inbetween stage, we'll still face the same trials. I have published friends who get discouraged. Just like everyone else, they have bad days. Sometimes things don't go the way they planned or a book deal falls through last minute or they read six negative reviews in the same hour. They're not supposed to be discouraged either, they're supposed to wear the mask of perfection. Most people in life have to wear a mask at some point; we have to hide how we're really feeling.
There are three really important things to know about wearing masks.
First, they're exhausting.
Second, they're not always pretty.
Third, you can take them off.
"Wait? Take off my 'perfect writer all of life is good and I am awesome' mask? I can't do that. People will know that I'm not having a fantastic time, that I'm sad or discouraged and my super fun tweets are super fake! I can't."
But, you know, you can. And I think sometimes we have to. If we ever want to truly succeed at this writing thing, if we want to create relateable, vulnerable characters for readers to connect with, then I believe we too must be connectable. That means sharing our weaknesses as well as our strengths. That means creating real friendships with other writers, with people we can talk to who understand. That doesn't mean we bash everyone and everything, or start being rude to everyone just because we're having a bad time. (Vulnerability and meanness are two different things.)
The mask must come off and in the end, you must be yourself.
In fact, let me start.
Sometimes writing is really hard and I wake up and wonder what the heck I am doing. I wonder if I could find something else that makes me just as happy and saves me a lot of heartache--but I know deep down that I can't. I watch people succeed and I always wonder when that will happen for me. Then I work harder. I watch TV when I'm depressed about it, because it's an easier place to go than to a book. When I tell people I'm a writer, I hate that look they get that--that "way to waste your life" look. I hate answering the question "Are you published?" and "how long will it be until that happens." Because you know what, I love writing. Even on the hard days. Especially when I overcome the hard days. I love sharing things here and meeting other people who have hard days. I love how I can say all that without condemnation because I'm sure that I am not alone.
At least, I hope I'm not alone.
What about you? Are you wearing a mask of perfection? Do you feel like you have to hide sometimes in the writing life? Is there someone in your life that you don't have to be perfect for? Can we all just take off the masks for a minute?