Today I’m going to go all Wil Wheaton on you. It’s a new phrase, I coined it myself.
I just started to read Wheaton’s memoir Just a Geek. Why did I pick that up? Am I just a geek? I don’t know if I would describe myself in that way, but I know way more about the Linux command line than your average 61 year old woman. Yup, you heard me right. That is the first really hard thing I’ve written on this blog. Not the Linux bit. I’m really proud of that, but when you are 61 (ouch) years old you hedge your bets because you get the distinct feeling that no one, absolutely no one gives a shit what an old lady like that might have to say. Especially an old lady who is still trying real hard to make it, somehow, somewhere.
Above you see a photograph. That’s me, kinda-sorta. I’ve managed exactly once in my life to make my hair look like that. Then it took me about a dozen attempts with my camera on a timer to get this shot. Remember the bit about my geekdom? I’m good with computers and I grok* the Gimp and Photoshop. So that is me above, yes, but not the me that rises from my bed Medusa-headed and sleep creased. There are lots of mes, just as there are lots of yous.
When you’re sixty you’ve done a bunch of things. At three I had an epiphany. I realized that if I drew a sorta circle, with a couple of sorta circles and an line in the centre of it, other people knew what I’d drawn. Holy shit, that was amazing! I’d made symbols and other people understood them. From that time on I wanted to be an artist, a painter, more than anything. I’m still working on that.*
About seven or so years ago I wondered if I could write a novel. It took a long time, but I did it and it even makes some logical sense. I was my three-year-old self all over again. I want to write and have people read my stories so bad I can taste it, but it’s a long road from wannabe to published author. I’m terrified that I’ll move straight from wannabe to has-been and never even see the in-between. All I can do in the mean time is to keep writing. Practise, practise, practise. Last year I wrote two 70,000 word young adult mystery novels, and 60,000 words of a science fiction novel. I’m getting better.
So what is all this about Wil Wheaton? Wil spent a long time trying to prove that he was more than a kid actor has-been and somewhere in his early days of keeping a weblog (his word, not mine) he learned that honesty had an amazing affect on people. It pulled people together, helped to make him and them whole.
I’ve had a blog for some time, it doesn’t have many entries. It’s not dishonest exactly, but I’m careful what I say. I’m used to hiding under a rock. The bright lights scare me. I have a Twitter account, and a Facebook account, and in my efforts toward getting published, I began to do what many other people in my position do. They friend established authors, editors and agents, they follow established authors, editors and agents. This is called networking. You know that little inner voice you have — mine is a skinny Mennonite girl with tight braids — well, mine’s saying, “That’s a lie. You might have read Val McDermid’s books, but you don’t know her at all and she doesn’t know you from a dust bunny, so how is it she’s your friend? And that Sara, the agent, what’s she too you?”
That skinny Mennonite girl won’t let me get away with a thing, and she’s right. Hey, I’m an introverted person, it takes me long time of consistent deep conversation before I ever consider anyone a friend, and now I’m calling complete strangers friends. All this friending and following seems a bit creepy to me. So how do I keep it real, and honest? Can’t I just write a good book or paint an good picture and let the goodness do the work for me? Apparently not.
So, how do you do, Ms. McDermid. It is really nice to meet you, and Ms. Sara, I’m not going to unfriend you even though you turned down my agent query, because you seem like a really nice lady and I’m happy to have met you.
Wil Wheaton’s story has resonance for me and I think it might have for any creative person whether they are Just a Geek or not. I don’t know whether I can carry this off, being this honest and forthright in a public arena, but I’m going to give it a try.
(Big breath, okay, okay — hit publish).
* to grok – from Robert Heinlein’s novel Stranger in a Strange Land. I is a Martian word that means to intimately and completely share the same reality. For Geeks it means understanding something, usual code, intimately well.
* You can see some of my paintings here http://tagonist.net/gallery2/main.php