I am a minimizer. That is to say: I don’t brag about myself or my accomplishments even when I should. In fact, sometimes I forget to tell people about them, or I mention good news in an offhand way, as if it’s of no consequence—and in this world where branding is a thing, you can’t be a minimizer.
I have writing friends who frankly tweet, post, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever, when they blow their fricken noses. That doesn’t appeal to me. I might make a quick tweet or a quick FB post, and it will get a few favorites or “likes,” and then it moves quickly out of the spotlight as I post more interesting things on my feeds, mainly pictures of my cats. And so, in choosing not to promote the hell out of myself—or even just the heck out of myself—I can’t really enjoy the accolades that I’m due because no one really takes notice.
Case in point. In my FB post about being named a finalist in the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize, I should have been self-laudatory ad nauseam and really took time to savor that moment—I should have appreciated that it was a kind of milestone—that it meant that people outside of my little coterie of friends on FB and IRL recognized some worth in my manuscript. In my poetry—in the thing that is so central to my core self that it’s my identity. So what did I write on Sept. 19th about it? I quote:
“Just found out that my manuscript was a finalist in the Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Prize….but it didn’t win. Bummer.”
REALLY? That’s what I write? How about something like this?
“I just found out the great news that my poetry manuscript made it as far as finalist in the Hilary Gravendyk Poetry Prize!”
Look at the rhetorical differences between both of those posts—the lousy original and the one I should have written. Isn’t the second one a comment that deserves a lot of response? Of course it is—because it focuses on the positive, exciting aspect of even getting to the finalist stage. In my response, I minimized its significance right out of mattering to everyone… including myself.
How are people going to expect awesomeness from me if I don’t show off when something awesome happens? In my general (pathological?) desire to be wallflowery and invisible, this honor basically went unremarked. I mean, forgodsake, only one of my close writing friends even “liked” that post. It makes me wonder if the rest even know about it? And how would they know? I didn’t tell them. I should have let them take joy in my success—and it would have let me take some extra joy in it. But no.
Or what of the Pushcart Prize Nomination I received on Oct. 10th? This is an amazing recognition for me—yes, it’s a nomination, but just consider what it represents, that Glassworks thought mine was one of the best pieces they’d published all year. That is a Big Deal—or it should be. And here’s what I had to say about it on social media—talk about dinky—
“I would like to thank Glassworks Journal for nominating my piece ‘Camminare a Venezia: a Poemoir’ for a Pushcart Prize!”
This time not one of my close writing friends “liked” the post. Maybe they didn’t see it. Or maybe they don’t care about Pushcart Prizes; maybe they think writing prizes are bullshit, and nominations aren’t even noteworthy. But maybe they would have, if I had taken the time to tell them personally. (Or maybe not.)
This post is not to badmouth friends who weren’t more fulsome and forthcoming about praising me for my writing achievements. Whether something gets 9 “likes” or 90, that’s not how I should measure my worth. I know this.
This post is really designed more as a reminder to myself to be joyful in my writing successes, because they are fleeting and they don’t come often. By my not fully enjoying being a finalist in the manuscript contest or in learning about the Pushcart nomination (and preening or boasting even a little bit) I’ve robbed myself of some happy moments, and cheated my friends the opportunity to be happy for me too. I need to do better about that.
P.S.: I took an unintentional hiatus from my Wednesday posts; October has been rife with disruption (bad and good), starting with the insanity that is semester scheduling for Spring; then my office flooded and I was office-homeless for more than a week; and my Mom came for a week, etc. So writing was a bit low-priority. I hope you, my Five Faithful, didn’t miss me too much.