Sunday, February 08, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Tiny Successes

This week I received two encouraging e-mails regarding my writing endeavors. The first one came from The Urban Muse. This writing website was recently featured in Writer’s Digest Yearbook issue as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. I will be a guest blogger on February 20th. On my guest post, I’ll be talking about this blog and including a link to Creativity Central and my other blog Colleenie’s Couch.

My second e-mail informed me that I was selected to be on the Reader’s Panel of my local newspaper, commenting on America Idol. I will have comments weekly in the paper and on their blog.

I am very excited about both of these upcoming gigs, yet I also feel anxious. More exposure and eyes for my blogs is exactly what I’ve been working for, but it also means being literally exposed. The newspaper wants to photograph me and take a video for the blog. I have no experience behind a camera and my picture means everyone at my office and my kids schools will know about my writing.

It’s quite silly, but I enjoy my secret life as a writer. Exposure comes with criticism and judgment and I wonder if I’m ready for that. My practical side knows I’m being ridiculous; I should have fun, enjoy the experience and learn what I can. There’s a little voice, though, that keeps saying that people will think, “Who the hell does Colleen think she is?” I thought I was over all those negative feelings and was surprised to find them rushing back.

My concerns are not without merit. To date, the only time I put my work on public display was when I read a two-minute personal essay on local public radio. It was a great experience and I was satisfied with my finished piece. I thought I was talking about something quite innocuous – how hectic summertime can be for families- yet my one and only comment was from a listener who went on a huge tirade of how I wanted status and material things were important to me. Again, my two voices took over.

The one side of me knew this person most likely had nothing better to do and, in fact, probably did this quite often. The other side, with the tiny voice I try to suppress, was disappointed that the only comment my piece ignited was filled with anger, not to mention missing my main point entirely. The worst part was I let it take something away from my wonderful experience.

It’s been a couple years now since I recorded that spot. The funny thing is, I thought I toughened up. Being a writer means you have something to say that you want the world to hear. It’s easy when the ones that “hear” us are family, friends and other writers. Even if they give criticism, there’s usually a level of care taken. Most often they are on our side, so to speak. When you’re in the newspaper, you’re opening yourself to any yahoo out there.

You know what? I have to get over it. I decided this year to enjoy the good things more. When times are tough, like they’ve been for so many lately, we tend to not enjoy the little bursts of joy. We know they will not last and other challenges await us shortly, but we really should roll around in it, hold it up and watch it sparkle…savor that nugget so it sustains us for the next challenge.

It’s been awhile now since I made the decision to act like a writer. So far, it has served me well. Next step: act tough, be tough. I’ll let you know how it goes.

1 comment:

Suzanne Kelsey said...

Colleen, I love the way you write from your heart. And I'm excited about your opportunities! Your post makes me think of my first published essay, which appeared in our state newspaper about 14 years ago. I wrote about the importance of time over money -- shared that my family was sacrificing new cars and other material things in order for me to pursue my "ecstatic work" as a writer while I held a part-time day job. Imagine my surprise when my then 15-year-old son blew up at me after he read the essay in the paper because I said in the article that my sons were having to make do with just a few pair of jeans. I was mortified and thought I'd never write again. My son is now almost 30, and he is one of my foremost champions of my writing. I've since had more strange, unexpected reactions from readers -- some of whom have completely misread my work -- and it's disconcerting, but it's part of the territory. So yes, develop that thicker skin and even learn to appreciate the controversy you can generate! And give yourself two big pats on the back for doing what you're supposed to do re: writing. Remember: writing chooses you as much as you choose it.