Don’t write about your girlfriend/ boyfriend/ wife/ wifesy/ husband/ hubby/ or pets. I read that advice on Seth Godin’s blog. Seth, is the internet god often pictured, on his site, with a half head and eyes pointed skyward.* He’s likeable. I like him and not because there’s a cult around him that says you MUST like him like. As we all know, I have no problem saying what I feel.** So, I like him, for no other reason then I like him and that he seems knowledgeable. And yes, of course, I know that he’s wildly popular.
Recently, I read a post on Seth’s blog about “how to get more traffic to your site.” In the list of tips, he says, “Don’t write about your cat, your boyfriend, or your kids.”
Never mind that if you skip a number down he says, “Do write about your kids.” Is he being clever? Who knows? Is he using reverse psychology? Who knows.
Well then, what, pray tell, is my point?
My point is…
Who in the feck should you listen to?
I think this is the hardest thing for a writer – ever. So many voices, a lot of them discouraging. A lot of voices that don’t write, but yet still with the cojones to tell you what to do. Who should you listen to? Your wife? Your life coach? Your therapist? That famous author? That famous blogger? I think the answer is very nuanced. You should HEAR them all, but you should only LISTEN to YOU.
Of course, this is way easier said then done. For example, take Seth’s notion of, “don’t write about your boyfriend (significant other).” If I took that to heart, I’d never write about Wifesy. But, the thing is, I LOVE writing about Wifesy. It’s such a big part of my life and I find it so fun to do so. And I also LOVE reading other peoples’ posts about their significant others. Even better if they have a special name for them like, “Sassafras” or “Bill Payer.” I love reading hillarious posts that scream, “Oh, my gawd, you would NOT believe what Bill Payer – Sergeant Sassafras did today. Gawd, I love him so.” These kinds of posts are so relatable for me. And so fun to read. They are real life, puffed up and thrown in a descriptive, word blender, and then served without that horrible reality show afro-sheen.
It’s very difficult as a writer to know who to turn up and who to tune out. Just last night I was watching a new show, “Girls” on HBO. Now, this show is brilliantly well written. You would think it was sh*t due to all the controversy surrounding their lack of diversity in casting, but it’s not. It’s both well written and delicious. On an episode that I watched last night, the writer put together probably the best and most accurate depiction of a fight between two female friends in their 20s that I have ever seen. It was so accurate and so stunning that I thought to myself, “Man, that is so realistic and yet, I’ve never seen it on TV before.” How cool is that? To write something that is so true to life, but yet, it’s never been shown before? Just when you think it’s all been done and then – blam – in a moment, you see that it has not.
But, that’s not my point in bringing up “Girls.” There’s a moment in the episode where the lead, who is a writer, is figuring out what piece to read at a reading. She wants to read a piece about a hoarder that’s funny and that she’s really worked on. But, her friend – the one she gets into a colossal fight with later – tells her, “it’s a bit whiny.” Then she tells her boss – a guy who thinks he knows everything – that she’s going to read the hoarder piece and he tells her that she should write about bigger things about death and political unrest, etc.
So, what does she do? She writes a piece in 45 mins on the subway and reads that at the reading. Not surprisingly, it falls flat. So, what did she miss here? She missed that her friend was mad at her in the first place. She missed that her boss is just a disgruntled feck and argues the other side of everything. She missed — LISTENING TO HERSELF. Because she’s the one who knew she should’ve read the hoarder piece. YOU always know, if you’re honest with yourself. You just have to get quiet and listen. Now, that’s the hardest part.
I think we all have those people in our lives who either directly or indirectly tell us not to write. I have a vivid memory of a girl I used to wait tables with telling me she didn’t like a piece. Now, it wasn’t that she didn’t like the piece. Lord knows, I’ve written a lot of shite too. It’s that there was something else there. A dissatisfaction with herself maybe? I don’t know. That was a person I should’ve shrugged off and instead I took it to heart. My blogging buddy, Le Clown, has an “author” who told him the same thing. Clearly, said author should be shrugged off. The point is, we all have them – the doubters.
The trick is to make something anyway. If you don’t make it, it never gets better. If you don’t make something, they win. And truly, be careful who you listen to because some people live to be soul sucking vampires. It’s how they feel good about themselves. Do whatever you have to do to get really in touch with the real you – maybe meditate, journal, see a therapist, perform, find a soul sister friend / brother who would never harm you, exercise, paint, walk the dog, etc. Do whatever you have to in order to get centered with you. Get quiet. That’s how you know who to listen to and who to shrug off.
It ain’t easy, but it is worth it in the end.
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