The Beauty of Delusional Confidence

I have been working as a freelance writer off and on since I was fourteen. Ever heard of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul? Yeah, I wrote that crap. I was a young girl with dreams, underpaid and counting myself lucky to have a high school job that included MSNBC appearances (I was some kind of teen-depression expert because I wrote stories and poems about getting dumped) and weekend trips to L.A. (at that time, Los Angeles was totally awesome and rad.) My "job" led to other "jobs," book signings and of course, the glitz and glam of the writer's life. Hahahahahahhaha!!!! Yeah, right. Although I did manage to finagle a travel writing gig at 19 by lying to editors about my age. Who knew that I wasn't a retired school teacher in search of the ultimate honeymoon destinations/ greatest rock shows?

I had a great fake ID which enabled me to gamble freely on a Vegas book tour, win big and treat myself to a shopping spree at Tiffany's. (The jewelry reminds me to stop when I'm ahead. Sometimes it helps.) I convinced editors that I was a "relationship expert" as a recently devirginized teenager. (I truly thought I was.) It was my insatiable confidence and naivete that enabled me to attend the greatest European music festivals and get drunk beside some of my greatest musical heroes, all before I could legally do so. And why the hell not? I could do anything, right? Sure seemed like it at the time.

...Until people started talking shit. After one of my features in 19 Magazine UK, a letter to the editor was published about how, the author of something-something-drunk-cheaters-and-their-best-friend's-bloke was, "totally bollocks and full of bloody shit." Even though it was all true, I was totally bummed. Upsetting my readership was not my intention. I was trying to make a living and psssh, you write what you know. Or at least, what you can guess. 19 didn't hire me to write anything after that, probably because I didn't feel like pitching anything to them again. (I really stuck it to the man in those days. Fuck yeah.)

I continued writing for Chicken Soup until I became sick of faking it. It's one thing to fake a story, and quite another to fake your way through a relationship. (The people who run Chicken Soup are absolute monsters. There I said it. Fucking animals.) I started working on a novel and got a 9-5 job to pay the bills. I am not proud of my name being attached to the biggest joke in publishing history. I will be the first to admit that I am no better than the "artists" that paint by number under Thomas Kinkade*.

I once signed books next to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I introduced myself to him as a BIG fan and asked if he wouldn't mind signing my beloved copy of A Coney Island of the Mind. He laughed at me. You are a fan? A small part of me felt like an idiot (since when are beat poets so snobby?), but the bigger chunk thought, "fuck it." I was getting paid to write. I knew who I was, kinda. I was living, taking notes, making it happen. So what if I wasn't making it happen the respectable-collegiate-scholarly way.

I digress... now that I am working from home again I am getting back into freelancing. Trying. It really was quite a lot easier when I was younger, a smidge more delusional and quite happy to barge into the offices of I-D magazine fearlessly. I recently wrote a bit for Babycenter and today, while googling myself. (Come on, you do it too) I found that there was an entire group of parents who hate what I wrote and think I am full of shit.

The fact that I am the kind of person that googles herself is precisely the reason I I am flattered by the whyMs.Woolf'slistsucks.com convo because I know what they are thinking. The same thing the ASB was thinking when they invited the author from Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul to speak at their high school, only to find me chain-smoking in the parking lot. That I am not that girl, that I am someone else (although, I did mean every word, and stand by my eye-rolling love for new momzhood and my child.) The truth is this, in order to make a living as a writer (or part of a living) you must write what you know. You must speak the truth, shout it if you must! But sometimes to really enjoy writing, you have to lie, fib, guess, give each baby his bottle. Better yet, whip them titties out and start breastfeeding.

Do not be deceived by appearances. The esteem that one** holds as a hyper-confident delusionoid makes it possible for one to pose as an expert even if she is a novice, a virgin, a teeny-bopper writing bad poetry, an unexperienced girl gone child...

...laughing all the way to the bank.

GGC

*I really hate him.
**Yes, sometimes I talk about myself in the third person.

10 comments:

bitemycookie | 8:34 AM

oh yes. mmm hmmm. you are brave. i don't often stoop to admit the schlock i put out there for pay. a friend of mine recently asked me to send him the link to my teen fashion column. i poltely ignored it. i make the most money anyone can make in 15 minutes who is not a celebrity or a hooker, but there is no way i am showing anyone that crap. i spent 4 years churning out tidy paragraphs about what it would be like to experience a product from the self-appointed inventors of american style. frustrating, but it's what you do to pay the bills. you started young, but fuck your critics. you're a copywriter - it's not good until it offends somebody.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:33 AM

Wow. BMC. I had no idea you were a member of the elite club of teens for cash!!! And yes, offensive material is the only material that sells.

Before Archer was born I made my living writing for a PORN website. I can say I have done it all, somewhat proudly. (Hence the Teens for Cash reference, although I did not write for them.)

Interviewing porn stars at 8-months pregnant isn't something that I am necessarily proud of but honestly there is no difference between writing about stiff hard cock (hee hee) and teen pregnancy. It's all in a day's work.

As long as I am selling words, I am fairly happy. It beats selling skateboards and promotions to stale entertainment companies. (also former jobs.)

The Captain of the Ship | 7:33 PM

something happened after i had the monk where i pretty much stopped caring what other people thought of me. maybe it was the 10 people watching my labor and delivery. im fairly certain having your legs up by your ears while pushing an 8lb 6oz baby out of your vagina after 28 solid hours of labor while your parents watch makes you 1) a hero and a trooper and a kick-ass ninja and 2)exempt from your younger years bullshit. i say viva YOU! you're doing the best with what you got - at any age. the best part about being a mom, a woman, a partner, a friend and a creative soul means never having to apologize for any of it. go you and good luck.

the weirdgirl | 3:16 PM

There is nothing wrong with making a living! I just landed a gig where I will be writing and producing an online newsletter for a tech company. Is it something I’m passionate about? No. Is it something I get to build from the ground up (yay, control issues!), work from home, work part-time, and get paid for? YES!

I never cared a whole lot about other peoples’ opinions (as long as they weren’t untrue), but I know how you feel. I had an internal struggle for a long time between the literary works that I study and the pulp fiction that I read. I finally came to grips that I would be a whole lot happier if I just wrote what I liked instead of always feeling I should be striving for the next great literary novel. And if I have to write crap on the side to get paid WHILE I’m writing the stuff I like, so be it.

the weirdgirl | 3:17 PM

BTW, I loved your list.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:04 PM

All of these fellow mom-writer types. Can it be true? Brings tears to my eyes. I am feeling the love. Thank you.

Wood | 2:58 PM

I loved the list. Especially the one about poop. I am happier when my child poops than when I poop.

fuck those assholes.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:07 PM

i love poop too. especially archer's poop. thanks wood.

Jadenfish | 11:21 AM

i got nothing but mad love for you.

Lilli | 12:58 AM

I have to admit, when I found out you were going to be at cmsu I pictured a 40 year old writer that was out of touch with teenagers, but was still cool enough to be a writer for teenage soup. It was so refreshing when I met you though, because I realized you were more like me than any other writer there, and I idolized everything about you. But you are far too good to be using your unbelievable writing to make others money who clearly don't deserve it. And I'm proud of you for changing your reader base that will allow you to write exactly it is that you want to. And part of what I love most about you is that you are true to yourself in writing and everything else, even if you try to pretend you aren't. You are, and will continue to be, my favorite writer. And anyone who doesn't realize it, including those jealous moms who try and beat you down to make themselves feel better (that's the ONLY explanation), are deprived of getting all there is to gain from such a talented person! Love you!