A Question of Judgment

Some days, I question my judgment.

Believe it or not, I actually kind of enjoy these days. Think of them as mental floss. When I get several days like this in one week, even if the conclusions I come to make me feel a little weird or a little uncertain, I enjoy them because I know changes are coming. It’s an odd headspace to be in, but there it is.

What got me thinking about this was simple. I printed off a batch of poems to perform tonight at Main Street Books for Open Mic Poetry. Then I went outside to have a cigarette.

About two drags in, a revelation hit me.

See, I’ve spent a lot of time denying the very notion that I am a poet. I’d stutter/stammer something like, “Well, I write poetry…but that doesn’t make me a poet! I know people like David Baxley and Kierce Sevren who do it a hell of a lot better than I could ever hope to!” I even went so far as to argue the point with my Creative Writing professor (God, has it really been almost a year ago? Good thing I’m taking another class from her next semester. Gives me a chance to make amends).

Here’s the funny part, though: This denial didn’t pass my own acid test for the reasons why “aspiring” should never, EVER be a part of a writer’s vocabulary. The test is simple:

1) Did you put in the work?

2) Are you happy with what you produced?

3) Do you feel good about putting your work out in the public eye, and to hell with what they think about it?

If the answers to all of these questions are “Yes,” then you’re not an aspiring anything. You’re doing it. Whether you’re doing it for money is almost beside the point. You put in the work, you get the results, you can legitimately claim to be a ___________.

And yet here I was, holding myself to that same standard. “I’m not a poet because I haven’t published a book of poetry.” “I’m not an artist because I’ve never had a gallery showing.” “I’m not a lyricist because no one’s cut my songs yet.” All of these, by the way, are very much in play for me. I do all of them. When I do them, I put in the time and the work to get them right, to my own satisfaction. Once they’re done, whether anyone else likes them or not, I have no qualms about putting them out there for all to see.

The interesting part is, I could do the exact same thing in reverse with my writing: “Oh, well, I haven’t hit the New York Times Bestseller List yet, so I’m not a REAL writer.” If I heard another writer popping off with that, I’d probably give them a verbal ear-boxing. But here I was doing it to myself. Can we say “hypocrisy,” class?

Or maybe it wasn’t really hypocrisy so much as it was an inability to notice something so in-your-face and clear that it eluded me. It seems like everything really, really important is like that: If an angelic chorus doesn’t appear and start singing/screaming at you that you’re missing something really, really basic, you have to wait for it to club you upside the head before you finally sit up and take notice.

Have you ever had anything like that happen to you? If so, what did you do with it?

Can’t wait to hear your responses!

Ciao for now…I’m off to be a poet for the night! :D

Until next time,

Best,

J.S. Wayne

7 thoughts on “A Question of Judgment”

  1. Hi, guy: and I agree, I’d denied calling myself “author” or “writer” even when unpublished. After I’d sold a few stories, I became more comfortable with the terms. “Author” still sounds too formal for little ol’ me. I’ll just say sassy writer.

    1. LOL I like the word “author” when referring to my romance work and “writer” when I’m talking about my freelance blogging. Same idea, slightly different outcome. :D But hey, from what I know about you, “sassy writer” pretty well sums it up!
      Thanks so much for stopping by, Vicki!

  2. I think everyone does this at one time or another. Even when you’re published you think, ‘I’m just a hack, and it won’t happen again.’ lol I have to remind myself all the time I’m an author.

    1. *nods* Been there, done that, gave back the T-shirt! :D
      I think as long as we remember what we’re really bringing to the game, we can make anything we want to happen. :)
      Thanks so much for stopping by, Sandy!

  3. I still do that to myself. As an author, I justify what I write, “only novellas”, or dismiss my success, “I’m not a NY Times best seller”. Maybe I need a club upside the head.

    1. ROFLMAO Sometimes I think EVERYONE could benefit from one of those…myself included! ;) Success is one of those things that can only be adequately measured through the lens of the person attaining it. I’ve had days I wished I was you! :D Even so, it’s nice to see I’m not alone in feeling this way.
      Thanks for putting in your two cents, Melissa! Always a pleasure to see you here. :)

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