Be Your Own Main Character
By Chelsea Catherine
Blog 23: 5/6/2021
On Monday, I had my last official meeting with my mentor for this grant, Sheree Greer. We met over Google meeting, as we have been for months now. In the beginning, when we first were getting to know each other, I spent a lot of time tallying up questions for her, which I would put in a list and attach to our meeting invite.
I have asked her a lot of things over our time together. Some of them have been very tangible – she has read one of my essays, one of my short stories, and the first two chapters of the novel I wrote for this program. Her feedback on these pieces has been immensely helpful and has helped me focus on worldbuilding and expressing my emotions in a raw and unfiltered way. Beyond that, we have talked about pacing, being in a community of writers, and what makes us feel most like a writer, among other things.
Usually, I have a bulleted list for us to review, but for our last meeting, I decided not to. When she asked me what I wanted to talk about, I told her I wanted to talk about how we keep going as writers and artists. It’s hard sometimes, I told her. I see what other people are doing with their work on social media – teaching, doing events, public readings – and then I feel behind. Am I missing out on opportunities? Maybe I need to force myself to do more of those things.
Sheree considered, then asked me, “What kind of a writer do you want to be?”
An easy question. “I want to sit alone in a cabin in the woods and write novels.”
“Okay,” she said. “Then be that kind of writer.”
We talked at length about it. Because our society is capitalist, a lot of the times when we are creating, we are also thinking about compensation. We are thinking about success. We are thinking about what we “should” be doing for our careers.
For me, events and readings are incredibly draining and not always very fun. I love to attend them, and there are times when I really enjoy sitting on a well put together panel (like the one Sheree put together for Gulfport ReadOut), but when it really comes down to it, I like sitting in my living room and getting words on the page. That’s it. That’s what I love. That’s what I want to do.
“You can do that,” she told me. “Lots of people do that.”
Nobody had ever told me that before. My parents are in their early seventies (and both lovely), but generationally, they believe success looks a certain way. My father is especially stringent about this. As a military person, he has often provided me with practical advice. “Don’t quit your day job,” he’s told me. I have his voice in my head, and sometimes I will do things I don’t love doing because I think they might bring me success or prosperity.
While his teachings all come from a place of love (he doesn’t want me to be disappointed and he certainly never wants me to be destitute), I needed to hear from Sheree that I can just be the writer I want to be. I can be my own main character. I can sit in my apartment, or cottage, or wherever I am, and focus on writing and publishing. Maybe I don’t do a ton of events. Maybe I am not the most social person. But I can write, and I love to write, and that is all that really matters.
As this cohort of emerging artists finishes up, I hope we can all remember this and find happiness in our art without regard to outcome. I am forever grateful to this program for bringing Sheree into my life and for all the lessons I have learned from her.