One year ago, I joined Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Building Challenge. Every day we had a new task. Start a blog, get a twitter account, comment on someone’s post. My writing moved forward. I gained some readers. I became more comfortable with social media. It was challenging and hard to keep up, but overall, a good experience.
Then, something I didn’t expect changed everything.
The writers in the Platform challenge became a collective. We encouraged each other, helped each other out, held each other up, cheered and consoled and supported each other in any way we could. We started a Facebook page, and a website, and called ourselves Wordsmith Studios. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t connected with this group, read their work, shared a joke, some advice, or a hug across the internet.
I was looking for a platform, but what I got was a chair. A chair at the back of the class.
When I was at school, I sat at the front, next to the teacher, always ready to demonstrate my preparedness on command. I was very comfortable with my role. It worked well for me. But it was constraining. Jeannine is one funny chick – said by no one, ever.
The entire time I was sitting in that front row, however, there was a voice-over narrating events, saying “This is utter bullshit.” That little part of me always had a joke, a quip, or a snarky comment to make. I had that “perfect comeback” more often then not, but it didn’t fit what people expected from me. It was also generally inappropriate. So I kept it to myself.
With the Wordsmithers, it was different. I’m not even sure how it started, but I let the smart-ass speak. After years of being held in a closet like Rochester’s crazy wife, she was out and she was ready to burn some curtains. That’s when the magic happened.
People laughed. Okay they LOLed. They ROFLed and LMAOed. A few responded in kind with quips of their own, and after a while, I was throwing verbal spitballs from the last row of desks with an awesome, awesome group of writers. I had found my place, and it was where I least expected and always secretly wanted to be.
I joined the platform challenge to be taken seriously, and ended up being the exact opposite. Embracing levity, however, has made me a better writer. I used to look at the pain in my life and mine it for material. I’ve learned, however, that there is plenty of gold in the absurd as well, and often they come from the same source. It’s given me balance–the perspective to write what is real and true because I’m seeing it all, and no longer holding a piece of myself back.
I’ve also brought that joy into my life outside of the blogosphere–with my friends and my family. Viewing the world looking for the humor in it is sometimes difficult. Finding the pain is usually pretty easy. But this way makes me much happier. So I’m not just a better writer. I’m a better person.
So on this anniversary, I propose a toast. To those of us at the back of the class. I’m glad you saved me a seat. I have the cupcakes. Which one of you has the flask?
To my fellow Wordsmith Studio Members with great affection,
Photograph “Old Desks” by Alamosbasement © 2009 Creative Commons