Monday, January 9, 2017

300th Post! I Won’t Let Fame Get to Me

Last night, for the first time, I dreamed that I was famous. True to myself, not fabulously famous, but I had a short story posted in the New Yorker that, for some reason, everyone knew about. As if one small publication could make you a household name.

“You don’t know me!” I kept insisting, until they reminded me of my success.

In the dream, I was in the middle of legal battles with someone who had wronged me on a personal level. Possibly sexual assault, but I’m not quite sure. I kept having people say, “I didn’t know you were that type of person. I didn’t think it could happen to you.”

“I didn’t think it could happen to me either,” I’d say.

I recently read about Lena Dunham’s comment, and apology, about how she wished she had had an abortion. She was trying to be funny, and it fell flat, according to her. I don’t know much about Dunham; my only experience with the show was an attempt to watch it on a flight home from Australia, and having a girl throw herself one-sidedly at an apathetic guy hit a little too close to home and I promptly turned it off.

She does have the tendency to stick her foot in her mouth. Every time I hear something about her, it’s because she’s said something to tick people off, and not intentionally. Of course, I would be lying if I didn’t believe some of her anger-inducing comments were due to the unlikable persona she has to the public—the subject matter she discusses, her openness of low self-esteem.

Yesterday, I was introduced to a great deal of people who, despite never meeting me, knew me. They were friends of a friend and would see every time our mutual acquaintance on Facebook would like a status of mine. People who I never would have presumed to read my blogs know my life’s story due to my prolific attempts at disclosing my life online—apparently successful in its endeavors to gain people’s attention.

I’m not sure I ever discussed why I started blogging; I probably assumed it was obvious.

Back in 2011, I decided to take major steps towards my career. It was my junior year in college, and I lamented how little I had done to get published. By that point, I sent out five query letters for my fourth manuscript, receiving only one rejection in response. I had planned on doing more, of course, but the novel itself wasn’t exactly ship-shape, and I still enjoyed writing a great deal more than editing.

That year I actively “buffed up” my resume. I started submitting to literary journals, got active on social media—something I had zero interest in prior—launched a website and began my blog. Technically, I had started it earlier on a separate site, but then moved them all over to “What’s Worse than Was,” a title I was, and am still, irrationally proud of even though few people get it. Pretty much my writing career in a nutshell.

I blogged because I hoped to entice readers. I always loved stalking authors’ webpages and knew that I preferred those who had new information often. I had believed that having a successful online presence would set up a platform that not only would appeal to agents, but be able to appeal to readers who were already familiar with me.

I am always tepid about what my blog says about me. I attempt to balance bonding with my readers through like-minded experience but not the god that hemorrhages blood and ceases people’s faith in me. We like our idols to have their shit together.

Also, I can be callous and petty, an egomaniac like the best of them. And not always in a funny way. I hold grudges and can be bitter, but not only that, my analytical side can come off as pessimistically critical; even on occasions that I was not emotionally affected by a problem, my obsession with solving it can come off as deeply wounded.

I forget I exist when other people aren’t around. Yes, you heard that right. I stop existing. Last summer when I’d drive my coworkers home, we’d chat for a while, yet I’d be shocked when their friends would ask about my writing career or other elements of my life. Why are you talking about me? Why are you, two acquaintances, talking about my writing? That sounds like the worst kind of small talk.

They liked me, I knew, and it was nothing negative. Still, it always shocks me when anyone thinks about me unless I’m directly in front of them. I suppose that says something.

In college, my professors acted like catty school girls. They didn’t like my projects and would sabotage me (as well as other students) in revenge. Remember what I said about petty? Sure there's more to it than that; they're far more complex individuals than just my perceived malice, but summed up, they would make a point to get back at me for unspoken disobedience. Praising me to the potential freshman, parading me around like I was an example of how creative freedom was a staple in our department (I had to fight for it), they’d turn around and whisper intellectual criticisms to my fellow students, “Her play was just bad,” which of course always got back to me. They told my peers not to work with me in secret and for my senior project I had to fight for a space to do a staged reading of the play I wrote that I had no interest in doing in the first place. The whole story is worse, and I’ll tell you one of these days, once I’ve gotten over my triggers, so I’m asking for a little faith when I say that having people talking about what I’m doing has rarely been to my advantage. (I’d also like to note I was not the only one they tried to disrupt.)

I still see myself as living in obscurity. Every once in a while, someone posts my blog to a forum and I get inundated with hits and conversation (always smart, positive debates). I’ll receive some negative mail here or there, but again, it’s pretty respectful, even if the implication is I’m dead wrong. People who aren’t in my life tend to know what I’m doing, which is exactly the point, and yet, starting to see the result scares me. Some will start to talk to me about a project and I won’t know which one they’re referring to. I’ll change my mind later in life and contradict myself from something I wrote in 2012, something that the person I’m talking to read just last week.

It’s odd, to say the least, to actually start to have an impact on life outside your own, even if you’re just the tiniest butterfly who, on one side of the Earth, has someone talking about how she flapped her wings on the other.

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