There were three of us standing around, after a meeting, chatting. Making small talk, about the elections, work, kids. One of the somebodies brought up my blog, commented they read something I wrote and really, really liked it (which I can never hear too much of).
She then asked what I’m working on now.
“Oh, I dunno. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and how to do it. If anything. The blog, the essays, I don’t know,” I answered honestly.
Most (if not all) writers lack self-confidence, and consider throwing it all in about a million times a day.
The other somebody, a woman I truly respect and actually like – a lot – chimed in, in a sympathetic, defeated, conciliatory way:
“Yeah, I can see that, Kate. You’ve been at this a long time.”
This friend interjected into the conversation without hesitation, if not outwardly acknowledging my demise, most definitely implying it.
Which put me into a tale spin that most (if not all) writers go into at least a million times a day.
Why bother? What’s the point? What if nobody ever reads this? What if it goes viral? What if I have to eat cat food when I’m old?
It got me thinking: no one says this to other artists.
No one says to my potter friend Karen Pinto: you’ve been sitting at the wheel for decades now, selling at local craft shows. Bummer, huh?
Caroline Harman, an abstract artist and my friend who is insanely talented and probably two shows away from being famous, no one tells her: Wow, you’ve been in the studio for years. Still not at MOMA?
My mom makes amazing, award-winning quilts. I call her a fabric artist because they are in fact, works of art. No one tells her, wow. You’ve been sewing forever, still not done?
No one says this to other professions:
Still teaching after 30 years? Wow, you’ve been at that a long time.
The researcher: All that time in the lab, still no cure for cancer. Bummer.
Lawyer: Still headed to court? Geesh, been doing that a long time, now. Still no justice?
Mechanic: Another oil change? Engine light on, that’s a shame.
Bummer, you still going to the gym? Every day? You’re still fat, why bother!?
Still hiking? Outdoors? Again? But there’s so many trails, so many trees. So much nature. How disappointing!
You get what I’m saying?
Just because I don’t have a book deal like the talented Rachel Basch and Kathy Curto, doesn’t mean I’m not a writer. That I don’t love what I do: telling the everyday stories that connect us all. I like it. A lot, in fact, and don’t mind that I’ve been at it a long time. I hope to be at it longer.
I attended a writing conference a few years back and chatted it up with a blogger I met on the bus. After the initial: Got a blog? Me too! What do you write? What do YOU write? We compared styles, topics, and revealed we were both nobodies: just regular people, not virtually famous or in-real-life famous, just plugging along, writing down the stories of our lives.
I confided to her, the stranger on the bus:
“I don’t know why this is, but every single time I hit submit, or publish my blog, I walk a little taller. I swear I do! I feel good, like I did something worthwhile. Like I made something.”
“Well that’s the best reason of all to keep at it, don’t ya think?” she wholeheartedly agreed.
I wish I knew her name, because I think about that exchange a lot, and need to remember that one conversation far more than the somebody’s offhand comment: “Well, you’ve been at this a long time.”
Just because I haven’t hit it big with a huge publishing deal or viral essay or rewarding endorsements, doesn’t mean I’m not proud of what I create. I love when people say, Hey, I read what you wrote about ______________. GOOD JOB. Or even YOU SUCK. Then add quickly, Hey, you should write about __________.
They read me. I made something that matters. I had words, ideas, thoughts, and brain droppings worth reading and that indeed makes me walk a little taller.
So despite the fact I’ve been at this a long time, here’s the plan: I’m posting once a week, and if you’d like to read my random brain droppings, sign up with an email and I’ll land in your in-box. I plan on emailing monthly, not weekly, but that could change if I get famous.
Not so sure FB and social media shares my content with any consistency, because she was indeed correct: I have been at this a long time and the algorithm may have me shelved with other expired has-beens. So plug in your email if you’d like to, and by all means, if you read something you like, share it. Tell me. And if you see something you don’t like tell me that too. It helps me be taller.