Don’t Call Me Disingenuous

Stepping Stones - FinalThe phone call came late in the morning, or maybe early afternoon. I’m not sure anymore. Time has softened the sharp edges of my memory. I won’t go into detail or burden you with emotional baggage that isn’t yours to take. A few years back someone important to my life decided to end his. They say you’re never the same after something like that.

They’re right.

Days and months passed. The grief lost its weight but never disappeared. I couldn’t look in the mirror without thinking I’d failed. My morning commutes were full of tears. Things you’d never expect would set me off. A song, a billboard, a thought. Grief is hard. Just when you think you’ve found a way to overcome, it’s back, as immense and devastating as before. This particular “event” came after a long line of disappointments. I use the term “disappointments” loosely. Imagine trying to rebuild your house after a bomb exploded inside of it. Yeah, this shard will make a great bed. Bring all the shards. Make sure the pointy sides are up. That’s what I mean by disappointments. That’s life, it knocks you down and it kicks the shit out of you. It doesn’t let up. It doesn’t let you catch your breath, it just kicks and kicks and kicks.

I’m getting to the writing part, I promise.

Two years before the “event” I became a writer. It wasn’t so much the need for release, I found inspiration through other writers. And I had this manuscript…it featured an “event” strikingly similar to my real life.

I remember sitting at my keyboard absolutely terrified of the rewrite. I knew it was a story I needed to tell but suddenly the manuscript was personal in a way I’d never imagined. I made several attempts, writing up to the “event” before chickening out and shutting it down. There must be five or six partials floating in my hard drive. I just couldn’t push through my own emotions to make it happen. This one scene determined everything. I had an obligation to make it perfect. Like it would somehow bring him back if I got it right. This thought left me frozen with terror. How could I do it right when I’d failed the first time—the time when it truly mattered?

There wasn’t a catalyst or some burst of courage that finally forced me to sit down and write. It happened on an ordinary day, as these things do. I remember sobbing as the words emerged and the scene took shape. It came out in the way of grief—disjointed, frantic, breathless.

Now, I won’t say it’s perfect, but that scene is something I’m proud of. There are all kinds of courage, and having the courage to write what terrifies you is something I admire. People always ask me when I knew I was a writer—that moment defined it for me. If you aren’t bleeding for your work, you might be doing it wrong.

I released a book a few weeks ago, one that I’ve worked on for over six years. When I say I’m residing in this awkward place of bursting euphoria of debilitating dread, you know what I mean. I’m facing that same fear again, the freezing terror that any artist feels when they release their work in to the world. What if people think I’m a fraud? I can’t exactly preface my book with a note that says I promise I know what I’m talking about. The emotions found in these pages? They’re real. They come from a place of horrible knowing.

My part of the story is done. I climbed the mountain and left my flag in the dirt. It’s time to let go and breathe for half a second before I return to that dark place of writing that’s all too true.

Say what you want about Stepping Stones, it is art, after all. Just don’t call me disingenuous.

Author photoKACEY VANDERKARR has a penchant for fantasy and frequently listens to the voices in her head—most of whom are teenagers. Her favorite place to write is an old salon chair in her kitchen, with coffee in one hand and adoring cats sprawled across her arms. She prefers her music loud and her skeptics quiet. When she’s not writing, Kacey coaches winterguard, works as a sonographer, and hangs out with other weirdos like her at the Flint Area Writer’s club. In addition to her novels, The Reflection Pond Series, Antithesis, and The Stone Series, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland.

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2 Comments on “Don’t Call Me Disingenuous

  1. Excellent post, Kacey. I get this–all too well, actually. It took guts to share your experiences and I give you alot of credit. I’m also sure Stepping Stones will be your best book yet. 🙂 Thanks for taking us on the journey.


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