No, I haven’t fallen off the Blogosphere.
I’ve been fixing up ANOTHER rental house. This time it’s the beach cottage my father lived in. It is in need of love…serious love…and my brother, Graham, My Captain, his parents, and I, have been doing our best to fix it up.
Remember last fall when I spent every waking moment fixing up My Captain’s old house? Remember the previous renter had trashed it to the point where I was gnashing my OCD teeth and shaking my paint-splattered fists? Remember the tic I developed from that? (Wait, maybe I didn’t share that part…)
Well, I’m having flashbacks. And I’m spending all my time either fixing my own little cottage, or Pop-Pop’s cottage, or sitting around worrying about whether or not I can do it AND parent my children adequately at the same time.
My brother, who handles stress way better than I ever did, wishes I would stop worrying. I laugh maniacally and wonder if he ever met me. That’s like asking me to be skinny. I just don’t have it in me to be calm, cool, and collected. Or to even fake it.
I’m a spaz and I embrace it enthusiastically.
And I’ll die before I hit 50.
Look, there IS a point to this post. And it has nothing to do with the above paragraphs.
A few weeks ago I was invited to speak about writing for a Literacy Night at a middle school.
The entire time I was there, many of the questions I received from the students fell along the lines of, “How do you know if your writing is good enough?”
My response…every time….was, “Good enough for what? For who?”
And when they asked me, “Aren’t you afraid of people making fun of you?” I realized that these kids did not need to hear about the world of writing. These were philosophical LIFE questions they were throwing at me. These were the real cares and concerns driving these pre-pubescent, angst filled minds… not the details of ‘How To Become A Writer.” So here is what I gave them:
I can’t live my life fearing how other people will perceive me. I’d never try anything if I did.
People do make fun of me. So what?
Life is fleeting, and if you spend it trying to dodge the ridicule or scorn of other people, you’ll spend what little time you have here unhappy. I guarantee it.
So I told them: Speak and write with your OWN voice. Walk your OWN path. Don’t let other people define you.
DON’T LET OTHER PEOPLE DEFINE YOU.
Not your parents. Not your teachers. Not your friends. Not the media. Not society. YOU define yourself. And that definition must not be formed by the things that HAPPEN to you, but by YOUR CHOICES.
And until you find your voice, until you define yourself, writing will be tortuous. Because it will be fraught with doubt and worry of how other people will react. And why would you spend your valuable time being plagued by that crap?
Yes, I said ‘Crap.’ I keep it real.
One beautiful, yet hesitant, young lady screwed up the courage to ask me if it was all worth it when people sent in comments of praise, or when they stopped me on the street to say they love Mamaboe.com.
My answer raised a few eyebrows. Some of the parents were, um, NOT expecting my reply.
I told her that I can’t pay attention to good comments. I can’t believe the flattery, or seek out the pats on the back. Because if I DID do that, if I did give any substance to THAT definition of me, then I would kind of have to listen to, and believe, the bad feedback as well. It works both ways, you see. So when I say ‘Walk your OWN path,’ I mean it wholeheartedly.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself seeking praise so urgently it becomes the force that drives you…and your writing…or anything else you do in life.
That was my message to them. As it is to my own children.
And if someone does mock you, if someone does condemn or criticize you, try to remember that they are merely defining themselves. Not you.
Unless you let them.