I know what you mean. When I started writing, seriously writing, my one goal was to get my novel published. I met that goal, but was surprised at how unsatisfying it felt. Suddenly there were awards I had previously been unaware of that were not being granted to me! So many in fact that it no longer seemed like enough to have published a book.
The truth is I had entered a world which completely intimidated me. It didn’t help that while on tour promoting that first book the questions I fielded had more to do with where I’d gone to college (I hadn’t), and where I taught (I didn’t yet; I cleaned houses for a living) than with my dazzling prose.
I felt so out of place that at one conference I decided to just come out with it on stage. “I’ve never been to college. I clean houses for a living,” I said, and then I read from my book. That evening at dinner a celebrated writer told me point blank to never mention again my job or my lack of a degree. When I asked why, he told me that no one was interested. That hurt. In some ways it still hurts.
I’ll never forget it, but I’ll also never forget the woman who came up to me after the reading and took my hands in hers and said, “Never apologize for working hard or being who you are.” She had read right through to the heart of me. She could see my fear that I did not measure up, and in her kindness and through her touch she was telling me that I did, and that this was not a fear I need ever have, not there surrounded by literary luminaries, and not anywhere.
The truth, I have come to realize, is that my writing is important. To who besides me, I don’t know. But what if I were to suppress it (as I have tried to do)? What if I chose to not tell my own story, or the stories of my characters? What if I silenced that voice? What if all of us who feel that we could never win the game silenced all our voices? What of the world then?