There are more learned people than me in the world, scholars and folks with a string of letters behind their name, but when it comes to what’s inside my brain, there isn’t a holier than thou degree holder that can spar with my opinion. I am the foremost expert on me.
I didn’t become the final authority by accumulating a fan base or attracting people who have used feather dusters to stroke my ego. My diploma comes equipped with humiliation, shame and in the case of my writing, investment in courses, taking criticism and accepting rejection.
Some writers come with an inheritance, a story that burns to be told. They are the Barbie dolls, the cheerleaders with the perfect wardrobes and perky boobs.
Of course it’s an analogy, but there are some inspired stories that will have editors ordering in a gross of blue pencils and willingly spend hours making technical corrections. The rest of us are forced to bring a skill-set to our stories.
Contrary to the urban myth that some people are born with lap tops attached to their umbilical cords, the majority of infants have no linguistic skills and a limited number of ways to communicate. Mostly they cry, scream or gurgle and they learn that the world reacts to their primitive language. Notwithstanding the process of toilet training, that may in fact make some toddlers feel they are failing to have their needs met-- to be nurtured and cared for-- almost every child learns how to read and write. Now some kids react better to a reward program while learning to control their bodily functions, readily trading a chocolate or two for their display in a toilet bowl, others delay their autonomy for dependence on care-givers.
When I began to transition, move away from the concept of writing for approval, I had to do a lot of research. There was a time when I read or asked my friends and relatives to read my masterpieces, awaiting—with good reason—to expect their awe and approval, what I received in turn was mild approval, a nodding head or a pat on the back. I wanted more and was stunned by their lack of appreciation for my personal piece of art.
Why wouldn’t I expect that from people who applauded my first words or threw a surprise party to recognize my first promotion?
I drifted from disappointment, to depression and settled into a hole of self pity. I continued to write, but I hid my scribbles, often throwing them into a fire pit to burn. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t very good at the process. The very people that promised to love me, treated my writing as something associated with the cost of their loyalty, and they should know, shouldn’t they?
This deceptive point of view lingered for years. When I chose to take my first college writing course, the very same people encouraged me. What were they telling me, I thought? That I need instruction? But no, they were treating ‘my hobby’ as something they could support; it was something I liked to do.
My first course at a community college was a bitter disappointment. At least half the time in those hallowed halls was spent listening to my classmates read their stories out loud. I was victimized by my boredom and impatience. The instructor, a published journalist, encouraged and rewarded each author, while I seethed. The more I listened, the more I felt they were a group of egotists. I hadn’t come, paid good money to applaud for losers. Worse, I had no interest in sharing my work with anybody. I calmly refused to participate, settling for the teacher’s remarks and suggestions on my homework. I missed the last four classes, but mailed my stories to the school, only to be informed that attendance was mandatory to receive my certificate.
The writing continued, accompanied by the sound of fire, obliterating my words and excessive use of the recycling bin. Years passed before I returned to a formal classroom. That time, by sheer accident, I became a part of a group of highly intelligent writers. I was humbled by their talent and enthralled by their imaginations.
It didn’t stop there. I continued to take courses, but I no longer asked people to read my words. As I discovered humility, I also found respect and ultimately self-respect. I’d been asking people who loved pottery and ceramic classes to applaud me, show recognition to what my arrogance, at the time, thought was superior to their own passions.
It was only when I became a part of a community of writers that I found and embraced my words. To expect a man who reads the ‘Farmer’s Almanac’ while he performs his ablations, is to demand that he care about my fantasies and mysteries. I don’t much care about his damn tractor either and now fully understand that my love for this dear soul allows me to nod, with patronizing appreciation, for his approval. It is no different and I neither share my writing, nor present my awards.
Somewhere in my personal journey I’ve gathered kindred spirits that do care, do take an interest and will just as easily dish out criticism as approval.
In days of yore, we used to call that ‘finding ourselves.’ I’d have to confess, I think I’m finally on the right highway and in case I get confused, I’ve got a road map.
copyright © 2014
♦ After a thirty year career as a sales and marketing executive, Ingrid Thomson is a top-ranked author in a website writing community and a published short story author who is working on the final draft of her first novel.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.