There are more people in this world that I can even feasibly imagine. There’s a number to it, it may be somewhere around 7.4 billion. Some incredibly high number that I have no idea how to conceive of wrapping my head around. As I’m typing I’m sure it’s gone up just a couple thousand. We will all have different experiences grounded in the same idea of needing love, food, shelter, and (for those of us who are lucky enough to not have to spend a substantial portion of our lives on the absolute necessities to allow our bodies to function at their most basic level) understanding of our own selves and what and who we are.
You hear that a lot you know, from these inspirational social media accounts, and jolly posters hanging on classroom and library walls, be yourself. Just be yourself, and the rest is history.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well it’s not as easy as it may sound, not one bit. There’s a lot of times in life when being “yourself” keeps you from the things you think you want, or the things you may be conditioned to want. That’s when things get weird. Well, did you really want them at all? Who is right, the voice in your heart, the voice in your head, or the voice from your stomach that reminds you, “hey we need to eat every day”.
I’m at this point. This very point where I’m not sure if me being me is a detriment to my life, or something that is going to pan out to be amazing. The only thing I can do now is examine the why of it all to keep me from downright giving up.
So why do I sit here and type words on a screen and dump them into the great wide nowhere?
Because I have to, I literally go crazy if I don’t. Writing is a very basic form of human expression. We all write don’t we, in some sense, every day. So, what’s with wanting to share it, and have people read what I write? I think it has something to do with connection, with healing. When I read things that connect with me I feel like it’s magic. I want to do that. I don’t really care if other people think it’s good or if it’s shit. I don’t care if people sit in their offices and throw every single poem I ever send to them out the window. I can’t care, it hinders me too much. Caring about it makes me want to stick my head in the dirt like an Ostrich and give up. If I can just connect to a few people that need it, that need the friend, the sage, the advice, or just to feel that there is somebody else out there. Something else out there, a similar thread. We are all of one entity, going through the same basic experiences. It’s sharing, it’s talking, it’s expression. So why do we need a formula, or a measure of success from it all? Whatever that is. Is success selling a book, is it being able to do what you love for a living, is it buying a new house, or having people pat you on the back in a room while smoking cigars saying good job old chum you did it, is it getting a degree and hanging it on your wall then paying back your student loan debt for 30 years? Please don’t ask me, because I have no idea.
I started a twitter account where I follow mainly writing accounts. Today I came across this article, and it sparked this whole (above) train of thought in me.
It discusses some new female poets who seem to be catching a lot of heat from people who think their work is too commercial, amateurish, and lacks elements of what makes other poetry “great”. It’s all opinions, conversations, and yes there can be critics. It is allowed. But it really made me think about what I do, and my own feelings of inadequacy about what I put out.
These ladies tell their own stories from their heart, in their own individual voices. I applaud that. I haven’t read any of their stuff (we have it at the public but one copy is lost and the one we have has 2 holds) but I do know that I was asked for Milk and Honey by so many young women at the public that I had to investigate to see what it was. It’s been a commercial success, and some people may think that it devalues the work. It doesn’t. It makes it more valuable. People WANT to read it, people are seeking it out, people are connecting to it, it circulates. Digital platforms and social media are changing the way that creative writing is being shared and distributed. It’s not under lock and key anymore, there are no rules, and for some people that invalidates things. I see a parallel in information that is used academically. The internet is a breeding ground for incorrect and biased information, this is my job to help people determine good information from unreliable information. There is a dark side to such accessibility and openness in publishing. I just, personally, can’t see how it stacks up when you are dealing with creative works, or art of any form.
The article can be found at the guardian.com here
This all goes back to the WHY of it all. If the why is connection and having your true self be heard, accepted, and used for the good of others then I would say these ladies are wildly successful, and role models in fact. It encourages others to use their voices, and to spread their own truths. If the why is having your work praised by those that hold degrees from academia and have studied literature and literary analysis, then yeah, probably not as much. I don’t see how either of these whys are invalid, they are just different.
This is also where all my personal hang-ups about digital publishing appear. Am I just a tool bag with a blog? Maybe. Am I just spewing awful cringe-worthy poems out there into already abundant slush piles of literary journals that nobody probably even reads anyways? Perhaps. What about those things I self-publish, they don’t seem worthy of anything do they? Probably not to most people. I just have to stick to my WHYs and remember that they are as valid as any others.
Ask yourself why you do what you do. The answer may surprise you.
Image obtained from: https://pixabay.com/en/users/ElisaRiva-1348268/