Sometimes, I feel like I’m in one of those dance movies where someone from the streets uses their tough life to work their way to the top in a prestigious dance academy where everybody has fancy schmancy training. You know those movies. Something like Save the Last Step Up While I Stomp the Yard Because I’m Dancing Now Mama! As corny and predictable as those movies are, I usually identify with the main character’s fight against stereotype or feelings of inadequacies.Also, I’ve always wanted to have a dance battle some with rich kids in the rain in a town where dancing is against the law until I change that law by teaching Chris Penn how to do the two-step. (This will never happen because I have no idea how to dance.)
A friend and I were talking the other day about my work plans for 2012 and 2013. I was talking about some things I would need to hire out and she reminded me that I live in NYC now
because she wanted to twist a dagger into my heart
. She pointed out that there are lots of great programs here for writing and publishing that have students looking for part-time work. I told her that I couldn’t hire those people because they would know more than me and show me up every day with all their book learning. I mean these are people who study the art of writing. I know that I should cut back on passive voice. They know why.
Word Nerd I Am Not
I started at Old Dominion in Hampton Roads because that’s the area I graduated high school in. After a year, I went to Louisiana State University to study biology. I wanted to become a veterinarian and they had one of the best vet schools in the country at the time. About 95 percent into my college education, I realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with my hand up a cow’s butt. But I also realized that I wanted to graduate. So I did.To be perfectly honest, I have very little recollection of college. I spent almost all of my time trying to keep up in class, while working two jobs and trying to support my then deadbeat boyfriend and his kid. (Note to everyone: Um, don’t do that, ok?) I know that LSU has a football team. I also know that bus doesn’t run down Highland Road on game days because Baton Rouge doesn’t play when it comes to their football. I remember how to get from my place to the where I could eat on my student card. I once saw a group of frat boys playing croquet on their lawn completely naked. I got kicked out of the dorm for hiding a gerbil in my room. I came to the realization that I should never live with a roommate ever again. And that’s all I got. It was a blur, really.So yeah, I get jealous when I see that other people have been to school for the past 10 years and have studied gerunds in depth. Or know what a gerund is off the top of their head. Or can use the word “gerund” in an everyday sentence without sounding like a d-bag. Even though I look like a word nerd to my family and friends, I get around you guys so passionate about the Oxford comma and realize that I’m not all that word nerdy. I don’t always fit in here. I don’t care whether AP says it’s okay for me to say email or e-mail. Unless I’m being paid to write in AP style for work, I’ll write it however I want to. Let AP come find me if they have a problems with it.
Here’s What I Know
I have my limitations. I would never bill myself as an editor because I’m not good at it. Grammar doesn’t come naturally to me. Self-editing is always a challenge. When I complete work for a client, I usually finish the actual writing very fast. Then I have go back over it again. And again. And again. And again. You get the picture here. (And if it’s a post, especially for this blog, I probably skim it once. If that. Hence the typos.)But I know I’m a good copywriter. The power of persuasion is one of my talents and I’ve been using it all my life. I know I have a unique voice that I can bring to any project. I can also hide it when you don’t want it. I know that one of my best and worst traits is intense empathy for just about anybody. This helps me put myself in the shoes of any audience and helps me nail exactly what it takes to sell mayo to that lady reading my copy in the store. . . even though I despise mayo and I’ve never met this woman.I am and always have been a storyteller. I have a way with words. I can wrestle copy to the ground and beat it mercilessly until you’re in love with it. I’m clever, too. I’m amusing and entertaining. I wouldn’t call myself a stand-up comedienne but I can make you laugh if you just give me some time to find your sweet spot. Even if I can’t find it, I’m good for a smile or two. I’m a good time and a good read, too.
This feels like just a list of why I think I’m awesome but it’s not. It’s what I know about myself as a writer and it’s all true.
I just have to remind myself of it sometimes. Like when I’m in a room full of people with big degrees. Or when I’m slaving over whether I should capitalize “web” when I know for a fact I should capitalize “Internet,” because that’s what the rule says. Or when I end up confessing that I don’t care whether it’s a physical book or an e-book because I just want to read. Or when I’m trying to figure out how to remember that “accidentally” is not spelled “accidentically.” And when I’m working next to someone who has so much experience while I’m very sure I only got this job because I refused to leave the point of contact alone until she would give it to me.
But the one thing I have to do is resist the urge to yell out “Let’s take it to the streets, son!” when I feel intimidated by someone I think has a better education than I do. Because, I can’t dance so I don’t what we’re going to do when we get out there. Also, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone else about my talent and ability as long as I believe it.
What intimidates you about other writers or writing in general? Go ahead and tell me in the comment section below. Bonus points if you can also tell me why it’s silly.
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Princess Jones is the mad scientist behind Diary of a Mad Freelancer. For more talk about freelancing, writing, and selling yourself for a living, follow her on Twitter.