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Friday, July 23, 2010

Thanks for visiting. I am no longer updating Notes to Self. I hope you'll join me on my current website, PlantingDandelions.com

A blogger is a person in your neighborhood.

"Boys! BOYS! BOOOOOYYYYYZZZZZ!!!! YOU GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!

(Goddammit.)

But they were already well out of earshot, having split the second I uttered, "okay...," to their request to visit the adult pool, not waiting for the instructions that were coming with my next breath, taking the six-year-old with them, and leaving me to carry all the wet towels and crocs, as I hobbled after them, alternately yelling their full names and cursing under my breath. I was between yells when someone walked up beside me.

"You're kind of famous, huh?"

One of the teenage lifeguards.

"We saw you and your kids on the cover of the magazine by the front door," she said. "So, what's that about?"

I'm a representative of the simple joys of motherhood, I thought. And I'll tell you all about it as soon I get through screaming at my horrible children.

"I'm a writer," I told her. "And a blogger."

"Cool!"

"Thanks," I said, managing to give her a sincere smile. "It really is."

And it is, though lately I feel more conspicuous than ever, with the boys' faces and mine shining out at us everywhere we go this month: the supermarket, the library, the gym, people's coffee tables and pool loungers. Now, Little Rock is a small town at heart, and every one here is conspicuous to some degree, but I'm lately experiencing more than the usual level of checkout lane regret, wishing I had at least put lipstick on, or thought to brush the kids' hair.

But I meant what I said to the lifeguard, and I hope she (and you) received it as gratitude, and not complacency, or worse, a boast. It's all incredibly, unbelievably cool. My manuscript is about to be typeset, and the mighty rudder of book marketing has begun to swing toward me with all its mysterious, thrumming, awesome power. It seems crazy to think that that people are scheduling meetings about me that aren't taking place in a principal's office. I'm probably driving my editor and agent nuts with all my greenhorn golly-gee goofiness.

Now that the book is done, I've got new things in the works with Good Housekeeping, which makes me very happy. There's lots to love about that gig, but my favorite has to be the emails I get from people who picked up an article or essay of mine in a waiting room, and were touched by it in some way. Enough to take note of my name, and google it, hours or days after they've finally seen the mechanic or doctor. Listen, I don't care how nicely decorated a waiting room is, or how big the plasma tv, they are horrible, soul-less places. To think that anything I wrote can offset the suction in some small measure, that's a great feeling. What writer doesn't live for that, to shine a little light into the dead zones?

(And then I paused in drafting this, and took the kids to the craft store, where I got cranky because I didn't get my way, and cashed in all my karmic reward points on making some poor cashier's day a little more sucktastic. I'm all about balance, see?)

Anyway, my point is, it's all good. And it's all relative.

I'm pretty sure I write some variation on this theme every six months, but the relativity of achievement is something I keep having occasion to revisit, like when I read this post by Fawn, about working through her feelings on not being included in the "13 Bloggers You Should Read" list that accompanied the Little Rock Family article. I know that she wasn't only local blogger who felt left out. It's inevitable with that kind of thing that someone will be. Actually, it's inevitable with nearly every kind of thing.

I know that feeling so well. Not from way-back-when. I know it today. At every level of accomplishment, lurking behind every wild dream come true, there is always a list I didn't make, a party I wasn't invited to, a person I wish would be my friend but won't, a trip that left me behind, an opportunity I wasn't offered. There is always a reason to ask, why not me? It always feels crappy. If anything, I get my feelings hurt more often, because my exposure is greater. I'm left out of better parties, more exciting trips, more prestigious lists.

What changes, what gets better with all this torture valuable practice, is that I've gotten pretty good at letting go of both the question and the crappy feeling. As Fawn concluded so wisely and bravely, it's not helpful. It's the opposite of helpful. It's quicksand. You've got to learn to get out of that shit as fast as you possibly can, because, believe me, you are going to be continually stepping into it.

I've been tied up the past week or so with the Author's Questionnaire, which is some kind of publicist's intake form (and is way more fun if you administer it to yourself in the manner of James Lipton). When asked to list my literary influences, I had to credit poet Gary Snyder, with something he said in a Q&A period after a reading of his I attended years so. I've absorbed it so completely, I no longer have the original words, only the transubstantiated thought, which is that it's an honorable and important thing to write for your own community, whether that happens to be a few people, or a few million. I believe he used the words "sacred" and "tribe," because Gary Snyder is a buddha ninja wizard or something, and can get away with talking like that.

That truth entered my being and never left it. Writing is a service vocation. It's not about serving my ambitions or ego, though I possess plenty of both. It's not about the blog traffic, circulation numbers or the Amazon sales rank, though I am far from above those concerns. It's not about convincing people "out there" to notice me, applaud me, love me, though I crave all that. It's about adding something to one person's day: what author Dan Pink calls "leaving an imprint." It's about giving somebody something to smile about as they drink their morning coffee, or something to ponder in the car pool line. It's about illuminating the waiting rooms.

The beautiful thing--the sling-and-arrow-proof part of it--is that you don't have to wait on anyone else's okay to accomplish that. If you have a blog, and you have even a few regular readers, embrace them as your tribe. Write for the people who've already given you the honor of their attention. As if they were the most important, influential readership you'll ever have. As if it were sacred. They are. It is.

And enjoy anonymously yelling at your children and wearing no lipstick in public while you still can.

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14 Comments:

Blogger sarabethjones said...

Thank you for this post, Kyran - I feel like, as an artist, this is a circle I run again and again. Really though, it's not particular to creative work - it's just our nature as people to look around and wonder why we were left out...and it's so easy to focus on that side of things.

And then, I have to run my brain, my heart, back around to the other side of things - to see what good I can put out there, to remember all that I am grateful for. Thanks for the reminder that there are people out there who actually want to hear the stories I have to tell.

Thanks for the reminder...

6:28 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

In a lovely coincidence, just last week I read an article about author C. E. Morgan and her debut novel, All the Living (read it, her writing is stunning). She was quoted in the article, saying, “I don’t think of my writing as a job. I think of it as a vocation... Vocation is tied up with notions of service, and as a young artist you serve people by giving them your best, the work you produce that you truly believe to be of value.”

I love her perspective, and yours here. It's okay to hope for big things as a writer, but it all comes down to the words and to having them read and the impact they can have. Which, of course, you already said.

(Goddammit.) ;-)

10:45 AM  
Blogger Mariellen said...

It truly is all relative. and so hard, sometimes, to keep a good perspective, one that allows abundance and generosity and light heartedness, into a grousing, n0ot understanding soul.

Loved this post, and glad you really are able to spending some time by the pool this summer as you promsied yourself.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Fawn said...

Thank you for this post, Kyran. I'm so glad to be part of your tribe, and I'm honored that you read my post and responded. Silver lining to not being a "featured" blogger: I don't even like to wear lipstick.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

It's about illuminating the waiting rooms.

I really like that line.

12:36 AM  
Blogger RW said...

I like this bit.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I have toted around the issue of LR Family with your face on the front for weeks now and am finally here to tell you how fun it has been to "meet" you and all the other local bloggers.

I love this current post and I appreciate your honesty and encouragement to fellow bloggers! Your reminder that even if we only have a few loyal readers, treat them as important and sacred, b/c they are. Thank you for pointing this out!!

If I ever see you around town without lipstick, I'll chuckle and be reminded that my blogger anonymity is not so bad after all.
Amanda

1:25 PM  
Blogger 6512 and growing said...

This was so beautiful and true and just what I needed to hear on this summer Sunday.
Congratulations to you and thank you for sharing what you've learned in your "valuable practice."
May your sacred tribe be blessed by your excellent writing.

3:10 PM  
Blogger La'Tonya Richardson said...

I read the article in Little Rock Family yesterday, and enjoyed it very much.

I'm sure it is a very different experience the people in your real life recognizing you. Most of the people who read my blog, and I correspond with on Twitter... I've never met.

Enjoy the ride!

10:58 AM  
Blogger Teresa Tebbe said...

Thank you! This is one of only three or four blogs I have time to keep up with each week since I started reading blogs a few years ago. It reminds me of so many important life lessons and joys, & I need that! So, again - Thank you!

2:32 PM  
Blogger Mrs. G. said...

Beautiful post. I'm going to hang on to the notion of the imprint--the cup of coffee, the smile. To me, that is a powerful image that cuts past all the other writerly concern BS. Thank you.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Thank you. I knew this and yet forget, over and over. It's easy to remember & feel it as a reader, yet so much harder to live by as a writer.
I needed this reminder.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Honey, your post has a typo.

xoxox

9:20 AM  
Blogger goodwolve said...

Learning to really be excited by others accomplishments is a continual process for me - I am happy and yet sometimes I wonder "why not me". I guess I am just trying to remember that YOUR success doesn't mean that I can't be successful too.

And heck, we are all hopeless geeks that got left out of stuff when we were kids and can't help feeling like that keeps happening.

1:58 PM  

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