you can do anything…

When people ask me what I “do” I usually hem and haw a little then I say I’m homeschooling my kids, I’m a domestic goddess, I’m certified as a personal trainer and that I’m a writer and poet. It has taken me many years to get to that last tag. It’s the one tag I expect I’ll always be a little embarrassed to say out loud. I remember being at a writer’s conference a number of years ago, my friend (who makes a living as a writer) and I were talking with someone I’d just met.  “Are you a writer too?” the woman asked. I stammered and Karen interjected, “Yes. She is.”

I don’t know why it is that every time I identify myself as a writer I expect someone to shoot back with, “Prove it” but I do expect that. It’s that unasked question hanging in the air. Even so, with the rise of the internet and personal blogs the field of writers has expanded.  Being a writer who specializes in “short form personal essay” myself, this makes things interesting.  Everyone has a story and now there are a lot of people out there who tell it beautifully, with authenticity and spark. It’s intimidating at times and humbling, always.  Still, it makes for pursuing “conventional publishing” a confusing path forward. Some people say to not publish on a blog, some say to self publish everything, some say to try journals as a way “in,” some say there is no “in” anymore. Nonetheless I do pursue it from time to time and I do label myself as “writer” whether I am doing that on a blog or not.

Just as I have begun to feel some solid sense of identity as a writer, some of which I admit is fueled by lovely comments from my readers here on Mrs Metaphor I run across this clip from Saturday Night Live and it’s been sticking to me for a few days now so I thought I’d post it:

One thing I fear most is that I’ll be sucky and no one will tell me and then the other thing I fear is that I’ll be sucky and someone WILL tell me. That’s what we call a lose/lose and it is what keeps some writers in the closet where showing work around is concerned. As long as I am the only arbiter of my work I am free to love or loathe it as much as I’d like.  But the “youtube” generation and the internet in general has offered up new avenues for critique and exploration which can be a force for good. It can help increase creative pursuits in a large group of people. It can create place for someone who feels they have no voice. It can foster community. It can provide information where it’s needed. And yet,  as this skit shows, I think fairly accurately, it is dangerous as well.

Does this ability to have an open “forum” for showing our work create a false sense of ability? Does it “level” the playing field or just start up new fields of varying degrees, a field where anyone can find a niche? And if so, is this a good thing? We craft these online personas, we choose carefully which parts of our selves we’ll show. We create the very best versions of who we are and post them on Facebook and dole out clever Tweets but in the end are we building something lasting, something real? I like to hope so.

Still, I have no idea, I know that for my fragile ego it’s a slippery slope at best. Just in case, I’m keeping my juggling aspirations to myself.

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3 thoughts on “you can do anything…

  1. “One thing I fear most is that I’ll be sucky and no one will tell me and then the other thing I fear is that I’ll be sucky and someone WILL tell me. ”

    Well, the answer to this, is to simply NOT BE SUCKY!! hahahah (which, by the way, is no where near sucky, on the suckometer. Your work is interesting, relevant, and well-written material).

    “Does this ability to have an open “forum” for showing our work create a false sense of ability? Does it “level” the playing field” I would say that it does both. It levels the playing field, for those that have talent (but would otherwise never be found), but it also creates an opportunity for those with that false sense of ability to be seen as well, which creates a feedback loop, causing other non-talented people to join in the fray as well. Which, actually, I am ok with…i would rather have the larger pool of talent (and non-talent) available; I actually like seeing both and choosing for myself what to watch/read/hear, and what to avoid.

  2. I think having a ‘forum’ gives the ability for people to join in dialogue and look beyond themselves. Also for non-aspiring writers like me who are just bloggers it gives us the opportunity to share our passions and seek input from other like minded people . You should never be skittish of telling people you are a writer, because to my way of thinking your are doing yourself a disservice and I think you are pretty amazing, and I wish I had just a fraction of your talent.

  3. It’s an interesting question. I would say this type of forum doesn’t level THE playing field, (if by ‘the playing field’ we mean being a traditionally published writer). It does open up some kind of new field, without which I think I would be writing much less and connecting with far fewer people. Like some published genres (science fiction, for example) there is a very wide range of quality and type in content, so everyone probably can find their niche – what that will yield for them in terms of feedback is another thing entirely; then again, getting published traditionally is often enough not just a matter of talent and drive, but of luck and timing also. In some cases, quality will find its appropriate audience and reward. In others, you end up with something like The Magic Treehouse. And sweet Jesus, if Mary Pope what’s-her-face can say she’s a writer, surely you can as well.

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