Ripping Off Your Bunny Ears

Not an alp in Denali National Park

Not an alp in Denali National Park

I have disgustingly good news and I ask that you bear with me for a braggy second while I tell you about it. I swear there will be a pay off, just hang on. 

Last friday I learned that I’ve been accepted into a summer writing program. In France. On an alp.

The program is through a graduate school and will last for three weeks. There will be four days of workshops lead by successful contemporary authors per week and then free-range dirtballing on the glacier, or euro-trashing it up in discos. Basically whatever adventure I want is mine to create (you may glare and barf and curse my shadow… NOW)!

What I want is this; I want to spend every free second sitting in a cafe writing my brains out. I want to absorb the energy, intelligence and excitement of the other participants, I want to be challenged beyond what I think I can accomplish and accomplish it anyway. But first, I want to build my confidence to the point where I can introduce myself as a writer, i.e. ‘Nice to meet you, I’m a writer’ without flinching.

As it stands now, I do introduce myself as a writer. Only, in my mind instead of saying and thinking, ‘I’m a writer’, I say it and think, ‘I’m a… “writer”’. These evil bunny ears almost kept me from applying to the program at all. You see, the program is for Grad students (nope) or professional writers (uhhh, maybe?).

As a lady who can’t get up unassisted if she falls, but travels to remote parts of the world anyway, applying to a summer program should have been no sweat. But of course, it was a gigantic mess of a quivering flop sweat. A creative life is what I’ve wanted since I was old enough to know that jobs existed. I’ve pursued it. Writing, drawing and taking pictures continuously even when I wasn’t trying to make money at it. These activities have defined me to the point where I can’t imagine a life without them. Creativity shapes the way I experience the world. It is the way that I communicate those experiences to others. Through creative endeavors I’ve made lifelong friendships with staggeringly talented people. But we all do the same thing. We put bunny ears up when we talk about our passions.

It’s taken me far too long to understand why this is. We imagine that we are protecting that sacred part of ourselves from the world. I’ve spent much of my life terrified of letting anyone read my personal writing. Terrified that they wouldn’t like it. That judgement would turn me to dust and I would blow away and never write again. Of course, all that this has really done is waste my time. It’s kept me from putting my work where it might be helpful to others. It’s kept me from putting myself amongst even more people who might challenge me to improve.

I applied for the program the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I assumed I had a less than 1% chance of being accepted when I applied. December and January offered me a steep learning curve. The work I submitted was more honest and autobiographical than anything I’ve ever written and for two months it was just out there. Weird, experimental stories about the darkest parts of my life in the hands of writers I respect. Being judged, while I heard nothing. When I thought about it it felt like someone was slowly twisting a knife in my gut. It felt like that naked in front of the whole class, junior high dream. But somewhere around the new year I turned a corner. I hadn’t stopped writing, in fact I was writing more than usual and was happy with the work. I didn’t really expect to get in in the first place. I’ve had plenty of rejections before. None of this has stopped me from writing, and now I’ve learned that it never will.

I was accepted February 7th, and now I get to hang out on an alp and learn from a few of my literary heroes. There are so many things that we don’t try because we think we’re not good enough. To talk myself into applying for this program I had to do a statistical analysis. If I didn’t apply I had a 0% chance of spending the summer writing on an alp. In applying, even with a 1% likelihood of acceptance it still became 100% more probable. In the face of unarguably sound logic, it was still really, really, really hard to be so vulnerable.

The limbo of December and January showed that writing is just a fundamental part of who I am. The judgement of others could never take it away. I’m just not that fragile. No matter what we think, none of us are. If we keep ourselves from risk all that we accomplish is silence. The evil bunny ears that I put around writer have to go.

With this post I propose a challenge. What part of yourself are you surrounding with bunny ears? Can we agree to look for them and rip them right off before they get in the way of our dreams?

Still not an alp at Rocky Mountain National Park

Still not an alp at Rocky Mountain National Park

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