Like Me

I am a woman of very few talents, but I have always been good at getting along with other people.  Not because I’m particularly charismatic–I’m not–but because I am good at figuring out what others want from me and then working hard to deliver just that.  When your goal is to have other people like you, you learn rather quickly that conforming to their beliefs and expectations is important, even if that means hiding the parts of yourself that you know won’t meet with approval.

It took me a long time before I figured out that being my real, whole, self was so much more important than pleasing others.  And it has taken me even longer to break the habit of caring so much about whether or not other people like me.  Honestly, I’m in my late middle age and it’s still something I struggle with.

It still hurts when I meet someone new, and after a few minutes of polite conversation they excuse themselves and hurry away in search of someone more interesting to talk to.  It still stings when I hear friends talking about a social gathering I didn’t know about because I wasn’t invited.  And I still feel a bit ashamed, like a child who has been scolded, when I voice an opinion and someone tells me in no uncertain terms that I’m dead wrong.

The downside of social media and blogging is how it can feed into those insecurities, what with those little “like” buttons that let me know immediately how many people approve of a particular post.  WordPress takes it a step further with its stats on how many views and visitors are generated each time I publish something.  It’s easy to believe that the value of a post is determined solely by the number of likes and views.

Last week, I published a post that had 1,225 views, followed closely by a post that had exactly 102 views.  I spent approximately the same amount of time and effort on each one, and felt that I had written both posts the best way I knew how.  It’s tempting for me to study the more popular post to see what made so many people like it, and there was a time in my life when I believe I would have done just that.  Thankfully, in many ways I’ve moved past that mindset and plan to move forward as I’ve always done, which is just writing about what interests me and working on each post until I’m satisfied with the result.

Blogging can be hard for someone who still struggles sometimes to find the courage to let her true voice be heard.  I have to remind myself now and then that all I really have to offer in this blog is my own perspective and my own thoughts.  Sometimes my words will strike a chord with lots of people and sometimes with just a few people, and it’s good either way.  The important thing is that my words are an expression of my true self, rather than something I filtered heavily in order to attract the maximum amount of approval.

In many ways, my blog has helped me finally find my own voice.  And if I am lucky enough that my words help someone else, that’s just icing on the cake.

Still Writing After All These Years

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Honestly, I never really planned to become a blogger.  When I majored in English all those years ago, I just wanted to publish a few books for middle grade children and hoped that they would be successful enough to earn me a modest income.  I thought I liked the way the publishing world worked at the time:  I would spend long hours writing and editing my manuscript, then send it to publishers until I found one that accepted it, at which point it would be their job to handle the marketing and sales.  My job would be to receive the royalties and get started on my next book.  It seemed like a good plan at the time.

Sadly, things didn’t quite work out that way.  My articles sold, but my books didn’t—except for one young adult novel which was accepted by an educational publisher. The rejection letters just kept coming. It didn’t take long before I began to doubt my writing skills, especially when I went to bookstores and read the books that actually were being published.  Clearly, the books I wanted to write and the books the public wanted to read were two very different things.  As the years went by, I found myself spending much less time writing, and more time pursuing different interests that didn’t require coping with quite so much rejection.DSC00181

But then the blogging world exploded, and I couldn’t help but see that there might be some advantages to writing one.  I could choose what to write about without worrying whether or not a publisher thought it could be commercially successful. The downside was I wouldn’t get paid for writing, but hey, I was certainly used to that!  I’m naturally cautious and a bit of a procrastinator, so it took me a while (and the steady encouragement of a good friend) to work up the nerve to actually start the blog.  But finally, four months ago, I started “Muddling Through My Middle Age.”  (Did I mention that all the good titles were taken?)

And I’m so happy I did.  As a middle age woman, it gave me confidence to realize that I could still start something entirely new and stick with it.  And although there was just a little rejection involved (It did hurt a bit to realize that some of my friends had no interest in checking out my blog.   I mean, if they had opened a bakery, I would have bought at least one cake), I soon got over it.  The blog turned out to be a great way to connect with others who were also dealing with the trials and tribulations of being middle aged.  Friends and strangers have left positive and insightful comments both on the blog and on my Facebook page, which is the only place I advertise it.  My list of followers is growing slowly, but steadily.

For me, the most important thing is simply that I am writing again, and enjoying it.  I’m glad I finally realized that it was okay to let go of my old dream of publishing lots of children’s books and try a different form of writing instead.  I think all of us need to realize that sometimes we have to be flexible when chasing our dreams, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Just find a way to do what you know you are meant to do, and don’t sweat the details.  Trust me, it will work out.