Happy Monday, everyone!
Today, I wanted to talk about how we present ourselves as writers. I think we've all programmed ourselves, at least to some extent, to be humble about our writing and our writing experience. I know I always think twice before I announce how proud I am about a current project I'm working on. Not only that, but I often make jokes about my writing, making my work seem silly when really I've worked hard to make it something special.
My cannibal story comes to mind. Thinking back on the last several months when I've talked about the project, I realize that almost always I've made jokes about it. In reality, though, Bread is a very personal and serious story for me, one that I did a lot of research on, one that caused a lot of nightmares for me, and one that depicts a lot of very personal intimate experiences.
Somehow, I convinced myself that no one wanted to hear about the serious side of my work. I felt the need to joke about it because I wanted to talk about it, and making jokes was my idea of harnessing my enthusiasm into something acceptable.
When I was in high school, my English teacher talked a lot about false humility. It was a recurring theme in her class. She didn't exactly say that it was good or bad to be falsely humble, but she asked us simply why we felt the need to do it.
Why do we feel the need to do it?
My answer? For one thing, I think most people feel like it's polite to be humble. We don't want to seem too into ourselves. I think maybe we also don't want people to think we're stupid. We're worried that if we suddenly say we're proud of something we do, then people will assume we think we're better than Mark Twain or someone. (Maybe we are, and maybe we're not. That's beside the point.) There's a protective aspect to being falsely humble as well. We risk less because, if anyone else puts down our work, we can claim that we already knew it was bad.
This makes me sad. I'm sad that more people don't come out to say how good their work is. I'm also sad that many writers are so frightened that they feel the need to be falsely humble. And, I wonder: does putting your work down eventually convince other people that your work should be put down? Lately, I suspect this to be the case.
I do think a lot of us sincerely suffer from lack of confidence. That's a different issue, that I also wish would go away. But, for today, I just hope that we as writers feel like it's okay to take pride in our work and to announce that pride to each other. Honestly, one of the things that makes me happiest is when I see people in the blog-o-sphere, not talking about their awards or publishing news, but talking about how happy and proud they are of their work. Those are the announcements that make me want to learn more about a writer and what they've done. If they are proud of their work, then I feel like I can see a true reflection of what they want to produce, their artist's vision, rather than something "in training".
So, are you proud of your work? Are you proud enough to announce it to the world?
(As a semi-related aside, last week on Twitter, I saw a post by an agent that went something like "Be aware than anything you say and do at a writer's conference has the potential to permanently damage your career." That really made me angry. I hope we as writers aren't so scared that we worry about every single move we make. I am happy to know that there are better agents out there, people who aren't trying to train us to be cowering wimps as this man was trying to do.)