Writer Jennifer Weiner published an essay in Publishers Weekly called “Deconstructing ‘I Wrote a Thing.’“ Talking about the way women often share their work online by prefacing it with “I wrote a thing…,” it’s a lot like my own internal monologue. She writes, in part:
I wrote a thing employs the funny, ironic, humblebrag shorthand that is common across social media, but it also evokes a familiar posture: that of a woman trying to make herself as small as possible—a woman standing with her head down and her chin tucked against her chest, hands clasped behind her back, and toe twirling in the dirt, saying, “Oh, this little heap of words here? It was nothing. No big deal. Just, you know, a thing! So maybe read it? Or don’t! Whatever!”
There is nothing more familiar to me than this image she describes, one of a woman attempting to make herself seem humble, self-deprecating, unworthy of attention. I’m as guilty of this as I could be. “I’m doing a little storytelling thing,” I mentioned half-heartedly on my Facebook wall, just once before the event for which I was hand-picked, invited only after the producer had seen me tell stories on stage several times before. It was, if not a BIG deal, at least a medium deal. Still, I didn’t know how to say that aloud or in writing without sounding arrogant, so I didn’t say it at all.
The same thing — or worse — has happened when I’ve published essays. Here on this web site, I add the links to my “Published” page here and on my author site, and I share them on Twitter, where I have a lovely following of strangers and where almost none of my friends know I have an active account. To strangers — and especially to any agents or publishers who might stumble across me — I’m happy to be publicly proud of my work. To the people who know me for real, my constant fear is that they will look at the link and think: “Debi? Really? She’s Sammi’s mom, right? How did SHE get something published there? Maybe she knows someone…”
And, of course, that’s ridiculous. But that’s how imposter syndrome works.
That said, it’s no secret that I am working on a book. Not too long from now, I’ll have my manuscript completely edited and my book proposal finished. Part of the proposal is a list of ways I’m prepared to market that book. I spent weeks researching the best ways to do this, and nowhere in that section of the proposal do I say, “I’ll go to this medical conference and give a talk entitled ‘I Wrote a Thing.'” It says, instead, that I will go to promote the book, to teach patients and caregivers what I’ve learned, to be a public face for tired and frustrated parents of sick children. I cannot — and would not — get on a stage and say anything to diminish the power of my message.
So why can’t I promote my work now?
Here are two essays I’ve had published recently. I’d love for you to read them:
- Potatoes and Carrots, or How I Found My Soul in Nineteen Prayers at Hippocampus Magazine. I’m incredibly proud of this essay. The product of work in a class on spiritual autobiography taught by my rabbi, Rachel Weiss, it took me well over a year to write. It traces my path from religion-by-rote to spirituality-by-heart, a story of growing up into a deep appreciation of the gifts of the universe, especially our magical bodies. It’s structured around the shmoneh esrei, a set of nineteen prayers that make up the morning sabbath services.
- This Is What I Learned When Forced to Put My Daughter on a Totally Fat-Free Diet at Huffington Post. A completely different style and focus from the Hippocampus piece, this essay is the story of how fat-free diets were a part of my life in the 1980s (through my mother’s constant dieting, like most women in that era) and again when my younger daughter had to follow that diet at age 8 after a surgeon accidentally nicked her thoracic duct during heart surgery. Diet culture is so pervasive, even as it’s changed its focus from fat to carboyhydrates, that it’s hard to imagine keeping my and my daughters’ attitudes about food healthy in the face of these challenges, but we did it. This essay explains how.
feel free to read and share them if you like if you’re inclined or not. The process of getting something published requires tremendous bravery for me, and chutzpah, and asking for attention and acceptance — all of which are things that have been socialized out of women in general. When women say “I’m pretty great at this, and you should trust me and give me the space to do it,” they are often demonized as pushy and boastful.
The very act of typing the words “Please read and share them” made my armpits sweat.
I’m leaving it there, though, because those essays are good.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, with the prompt “Uncomfortable,” hosted by Kristi of FindingNinee.com