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