Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An unwatched parade

One of the greatest rewards of being a writer is the transfer of your best thoughts onto paper. I have a folder of papers from high school that I have kept to remind me of how far I've come as well as what I have accomplished in the past. Sometimes, I just kept the original draft of an essay and the final product. Occasionally, I kept just the last page of the essay, where the teacher left comments and a grade. It was from pages like this that I learned words like "astute" and "poignant" and it lifts my spirits for me to remember that I've been called that.

On the other hand, it is an immensely difficult thing to be unsung. As I believe I've mentioned in the past, I am not a novice writer. I was first published at the age of 19, ten years ago. I have been writing fiction and non-fiction fairly consistently since the age of twelve.

I'm lucky to have one brother and he married a great girl who is now aspiring to be a novelist. Hers is the kind of story people will remember far down the road. While her husband did an internship and she was expecting my nephew, she wrote a chapter a week for her younger sister. She blogged about it, facebooked about it...

I'm not that kind of writer. Yes, I tell people about what I'm doing, but I don't make it a public spectacle. I have a good friend who is involved in a relationship and she is much more enthusiastic about the guy on Facebook than she ever is in real life because it's an attention-grabber and some people really need that. Me, I need attention, but have been treated for so long as someone not worth admiring that I just can't pull it off.

Not only that, but who will really care that this one author typed out her mediocre novel on a laptop with a couple of keys missing after putting in 8-hour work days while she was a nearly-30 spinster? After all, there are people out there writing bestsellers while bored and pregnant, on welfare and a single mom, whatever the latest story of the day is.

But it grates on me. I have been a published writer for 10 years and still overheard my mother say that it was exciting to "finally have a writer in the family." I went to my sister's baby shower and while all of my mutual friends with this in-law grilled her on when she'd be looking for an agent and how her latest chapter was coming, I couldn't get a single one of them to say hello to me, much less ask how my book was coming. When my siblings and I went to lunch with my favorite cousin, I attention-whored in desperation by making some critiques about the latest draft that I'd read of this in-law's book. Immediately, everyone admired how I was supporting the writer in the family. Ironically, this in-law is the only one of the family who even calls me anymore and it's generally to ask when we can have another word war.

In 7th grade, my best friend ditched me and took all of my friends at the time with her. I didn't realize this had happened until the day that I won 3rd place in the Boston Globe Art Awards and couldn't find a single person to be happy for me other than my art teacher. I spent the rest of 7th grade eating my lunch against the wall because I couldn't find a place to sit.

I feel exactly like that right now. I am doing something monumental and one person in my family seems to care. It's petty to whine that my siblings and cousins and friends care too much about someone else, but it would be nice if any of them cared at all about me.

In short, I am an unwatched parade. Plenty of pomp, circumstance, flash, excitement, but no one along the route to cheer me on.

In short (again), it blows.

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