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!
Until next time,