How did we get here?
This is the question that’s been plaguing me since I heard the news that an editor has nominated one of my published pieces for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology. The Greg Brady one.
I know, right? This was the one that when I submitted it to the journal I thought, “Yeah right. We’ll see if literally anyone is interested in publishing this weirdo little piece.”
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, then as always, first of all, I’m sorry, and second, you know that I have a scorching case of Imposter Syndrome as a writer. I barely graduated high school, and I did not attend a single day of college. I’ve only ever had office day jobs since I was 18. I’ve always really loved writing, but growing up, nobody besides my ninth grade English teacher ever told me I might be good at it. I was taught to graduate high school and get a job, preferably something that offered health insurance. End of story. So that’s what I did.
People will tell you that nominations and awards are just external reinforcements that don’t matter, but they absolutely DO matter to me. It’s how the writing community tells me that I might be good at this – and as an Imposter I never think I’m good at this – so it’s tremendously helpful when an authority in the writing community says, “I think you’re good at this.”
People will tell you that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a writing education, but I can assure you, especially after mingling with writers for the past year, it DEFINITELY matters. It matters when someone asks you what your favorite braided essay is and you have to stall for time while you google, “What is a braided essay?”
As it turns out, I write a lot of braided essays. Who knew?! I’ve always just called them “rambling”. There’s a whole writing lingo world out there that I didn’t even know existed. What the hell is slipstream? Ekphrastic poetry? A lyrical essay? I have to constantly google things to keep up with these people. I only learned how to use semi-colons this year, after I spent about three months googling, “How do you use semi-colons?”
When you have to put your work up against competition who have a freaking PhD from Stanford, or people who have already put out books with major publishers, or people who are tenured writing professors at Columbia, a lack of education matters. It is intimidating as hell and it makes you feel like an outsider. These people all know each other from years of networking through academia and workshops and they are a club. I spend a tremendous amount of time every day knocking on their doors and introducing myself, hoping they’ll let me in and not ask me how I got there.
So how did we get here? I’m not sure I’ve ever told you the whole story, but I feel ready to tell it today.
I’ll give you the Non-Cliff’s Notes version, despite the fact that my name is not Non-Cliff. Oh, but if it were. I would be such a dick!
Back in “the day” as the kids say, roundabout 2004-2005 when the band was first starting out, I used to send out emails to our mailing list to let people know about upcoming shows and band news. I would write a couple paragraphs, maybe tell a little story, act like an asshole. You know, be myself.
One of the people on our mailing list was Audra Schroeder, then-music editor for The New Times in Broward/Palm Beach. She emailed me and said she liked my writing voice, and did I want to freelance for the magazine? Maybe write a band review or something about upcoming concerts?
You should have seen the look on my face. Someone wanted to pay me to write something? So I did. Working with Audra was a blast. Eventually a new editor came in, and we didn’t mesh well at all (he edited the term “local yokels” into a piece I wrote about one of my favorite local bands), so that was the end of freelancing for New Times. I’m touchy about the use of the term “local yokels”, apparently.
Then I started a little myspace blog for the band where I could air out my unedited thoughts on a daily basis, and I was really surprised at how well it was received. I mean really surprised. Eventually The New Times declared my blog “The Best Blog in South Florida”. Holy crap-balls. I had to leave my desk that day and go outside and cry. (Truth be told, I still cry every time I get an acceptance.)
The blog kept on keepin’ on, and I was getting a really nice following. I started writing freelance pieces for other local music and culture magazines. Things were going great.
Then, in 2012, my boyfriend and bandmate/songwriting partner of ten years ran off with one of my best friends, married her, and they started churning out babies together, their gleeful lovey-dovey faces plastered across my social media on a goddamned daily basis while I tried to pick up the shattered pieces of my exploded life. I had to block, delete, unfriend mutual friends, and eventually burn down all of my social media accounts and create new ones, and even that didn’t stop it. When I went to see friends’ bands, they were there. When I went out to brunch, they were there. When I tried to go to the movies, they were there. It felt like a nonstop assault.
The hurt, the anger, the humiliation. It clawed through my body like a wolf and, pardon my French, ate my fucking soul until I was hollow. It wrenched every creative bone out my body and pounded them into dust. My writing, my painting, my singing, the band. Whatever I had was gone. Dead.
I cast writing and art and music out of my life and climbed into a shell where nothing could hurt me. I had no desire to ever feel exposed again, in any way, shape, or form. That part of me was officially over.
And I tell you what, I never thought those things would come back to me, but they did.
After six years of creative silence (and the love and support of my amazing husband), I decided to take a chance and start writing again last year with the promise to myself that I was really going to try this time. That I owed it to myself to give myself a chance. Not just start a blog, but send out work for publication, write a book, really put myself out there and dive into the writing community to become a real part of it. Walk into the big, scary room all by myself and say, “Hi, I’m Maggie. Let me into your world.”
I started the blog in February 2018 and sent my first piece out for submission on November 26, 2018. Here’s where we’re at today, eight months after that first submission:
I have had sixteen pieces either published or that are awaiting publication this year.
One of those pieces has been nominated for the 2019 Best of The Net Anthology.
I finished writing the damn book, all 73,600 words of it, and it’s currently a semi-finalist for the 2019 Pamet River Prize from YesYes Books.
I have been accepted as a member into The Author’s Guild.
The blog is now read in 62 countries.
Best of all, I’ve got a really awesome group of people who read and comment and subscribe to this blog, and I’m so grateful to all of you who come here to read about whatever I’m pissed off at during any given week. I treasure, and I mean really treasure, the fact that you take time out of your lives to listen to me ramble about, relive, and work through the stuff that keeps me up at night. You have no idea how much it means to me. I do not take your support and friendliness and senses of humor for granted. You’re all so freaking awesome.
What I want, from all of this, more than anything, is for all of us to not feel alone with our struggles. You all make me feel less alone with my struggles. I hope I make you feel less alone with yours.
You can come back from the things that you thought destroyed you. You can start over. You can work your ass off and make things happen if you’re willing to take a chance to put yourself out there. You can pull yourself out of the scorched rubble and rise like a goddamned phoenix from the ashes.
I’m just an uneducated dirtbag who spends too much time inside her own head when she’s not listening to Poison. Sometimes I write stuff down. When I don’t know what I’m doing, I google it until I figure it out.
If I can do it, you can do it.