What It Means to be Recognized: Timing Your Transitions

adult art artist artistic
Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Where some people have Imposter Syndrome, I have an invisibility complex. I have lived my life trying to stay out of the way for the most part. I assume I am not fun enough. Not interesting enough. I get to know people and situations slowly. The ability to resonate in any given environment comes to me as a slow burn and a sudden ignition. When I am ready to be heard, I am ready to be heard now. When I’m not, I’m somewhere between angry and devastated.

Transitioning From One of the Little People

I feel like I have been standing in line for hours, but to the rest of the people in line, I just got there. Most of them probably never noticed my presence as the fly on the wall. Those who did probably only heard me as a faint buzz. A harmless enough creature as long as I stayed in my place. Then I fly in their face, and they understandably start swatting.

The thing is, when you finally raise my hand and ask for my turn, no one realizes how long I’ve been waiting. They don’t know that I’ve been watching carefully. They don’t know the knowledge and commitment I can bring on day one because I’ve been quietly doing my homework. They don’t know, because they have never looked.

Recognition on Medium, and Other Places

My Medium journey is one place where I am trying to make this transition, and one part of the journey is curation. Curation is a system of recognition. It gets your work noticed. It puts it front and center. Without it, your work only goes to your own followers, and wherever you can manage to promote your work on your own.

I had submitted dozens of pieces to Medium and got messages on nearly all of them that they were not read or considered by the curators. I got to the one piece that meant a little more to me. The one that said, “this one deserves something more.” And the same response happened. I was upset, more than I should have been when I got the same response as always.

It meant more, partly, because the piece was about another time I stood up for myself, and the impact it made on my life when I advocated for myself when I had an unexplained medical condition. It’s called Self-Diagnosis and Dr. Google.

Sometimes, You Have To Squeak

What’s that they say about doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I contacted support, explained how I had paid my dues, and asked for consideration. Not recognition, just consideration. I didn’t know if it would happen, but it did. A few days later my work got the recognition I believe it deserved, and I got a promise to be read more often in the future.

Whatever you do, there is a good chance that a lot of other people are trying to do it too. Many of them are working hard, like you. Many of them are good at what they do. Some are not as good as you and will be recognized. Some are better than you and will never be recognized. If you simply lie down, the bus will run you over. Believe me, I’ve got the tire tracks to prove it. But I am learning, finally. I am learning how to squeak enough to be heard, but not so loudly that I get accused of hysterics. It is a difficult line for me, a learning curve to be sure, but I’ll keep working on it.

……

Gretchen Lee Bourquin obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature/Creative Writing in another life, and worked in disability care, customer service, and education administration — and as a single mom of two, now grown, kids- before delving into freelancing as a content writer. She’s enjoying the opportunity that Medium provides to get a little more personal and put the creativity back in her writing. Follow me on my Facebook Writing PageTwitter, or WordPress

 

 

Growing With The Garden

person holding green leafed plant
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Growing things is hard. You have to prepare the soil ahead of time. You have to judge which plants can go into the ground as seeds, and which need to grow in a sheltered place for a little while before you transplant them.

Life is like that too, especially if you want to grow. That applies if you want to help your children grow, or if you just want to grow yourself.

When I stepped into the world of the site Medium, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Much like my blog here, I know I wanted, and needed, a place to express myself yet. When I was on my blog alone, the time was not quite right. The soil was not quite ready. I got a few posts, but not much became of them. I wasn’t organized. I didn’t water. They didn’t get enough sun, and they slipped back under the soil of the Internet until I dug them out again. The garden here is disheveled. It is going to take a lot of work to bring it back.

In the beginning, I was still finding my roots, planting my seeds, looking for what might grow on the site. What would encourage others to take a second look? Grab a taste of what I had to offer. One of the first posts that didn’t seem to go anywhere was on prepping the garden. I started by literally taking what I was doing in my life, and weaving it into my post and my life. But I wasn’t even a seed yet. I was the thought of a seed. Thoughts are quiet.

Today, I wrote about gardening again. It was supposed to be this blog post, but it turned itself into a poem — funny how words do that sometimes, shapeshift into something you never intended for them to be. But sometimes, you have to let them have their way if you want them to grow.

*****

Gretchen Lee Bourquin obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature/Creative Writing in another life, and worked in disability care, customer service, and education administration — and as a single mom of two, now grown, kids- before delving into freelancing as a content writer. She’s enjoying the opportunity that Medium provides to get a little more personal and put the creativity back in her writing. Follow me on my Facebook Writing PageTwitter, or WordPress

My Medium Movement Towards Meaningful Writing

turned on silver imac
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Organization is not my strong suit, or at least maintaining an organizational system isn’t. It has been months since I wrote in this blog despite all good intentions. But things are different now. I think. In some ways they are exactly the same. I’m still doing content writing. I am still striving to spend more time and energy on finding and maintaining my creative voice. Right now, I am in the middle of multiple pieces on Medium that are in my drafts, but a temporary glitch is preventing me from accessing them. I’m trying not to obsess. I assume all will be well soon enough and I will be able to access things and post to the site again.

What is Medium?

Medium.com is an online reading and writing platform that is membership based. It’s filled with publications of varying sizes and circulations, as well as sample content from well-known publications including The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, RollingStone, and more. Much of the content exists behind a paywall — which means you need to pay their $5 monthly fee in order to have unlimited access. Without the fee, you can still read a few “stories” each month. And if you are sent a “friend link” you can access the content with that link whether you are a member or not.

The writing side centers around the Medium Partner Program. You can write stories behind the paywall, and when paying members read and engage in those stories, a small part of their membership fee is distributed to you on a monthly basis. There are a handful of people that earn several hundred or even thousands on Medium this way.

Most seem to be more like me. I sputtered through my first month making $1.56, and buckled down the 2nd month and made $20. I’m on track to get a little more next month, perhaps even double. it’s not a lot, but the fact that I can make something writing what I want in my own name means something, and it has been motivating. And now that I have earned back my initial investment, I have the momentum to keep going and reach for a little bit more week by week or month by month.

My Early Strategy

Being part of a reading and writing community my initial strategy was pretty much “Throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.” So far what seems to have stuck the best are posts about the challenges that come with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, memoir-esque essays about noteworthy life events, and poetry. Much of the poetry posted is actually older, from days when I did not write for content mills, but there’s a bit of new stuff there too. I’m also looking to ease back into fiction. I’m studying my ADHD- inattentive type closer, and am looking at more of the emotional aspects that can be overshadowed by the societal pressures to stay focused and produce.

How I’m Working in My Blog

Earnings on Medium are cumulative. You might earn anything from a few pennies week by week, to several dollars, depending on how popular the piece is on the site. While this blog is posted in full on my site, in the future, I plan to work Medium Pieces that have fizzled out, and provide snippets and a friend link on the blog for select pieces. If you wish to take a look at more of my work, check out my Medium Profile for a better sampling of my work.

A Good Workspace

Whether you work for some big company, a small business, or for yourself as a creative freelancer it is imperitive that you are able to work in an environment that is suitable to your workstyle and addresses any physical or mental limitations you might have. I have been working as mostly a content writer for the past several years, and as a result things like personal blogs and other more personal and creative pursuits have fallen by the wayside. For me, this creates somewhat of an identity crisis and a spiral of guilt for not being enough myself. This may make perfect sense to some and may sound like mishmash to others. It is what it is.

What is Workspace?

If you do a bit of surface research on workspace you may find advise on how to set up your desk or achieving an ideal climate in the spot that you do most of your work. Some will suggest ways to fen-shoo ( yes, I know I spelt it wrong;)) your space. But workspaces can vary a lot. For me, the more they vary the better.

A Nomadic Workspace

Personally, I like to go nomadic. Sometimes working at home at odd hours when the house is quiet is best. I might want to be at a desk or table, but I might want to curl up in a big chair or on a couch. An hour or two into the process, I may need to go into another room or hop on the bus and switch from a coffee shop to a library or vice versa. At the moment I am laying on my stomach and blogging on my phone while my laptop is on the other side of the room charging. If I open it, it will tell me what I “have to” do.

Deep down I know that what I need to do is listen to and follow more of my creative whims and work in the right space on the kind of work that fulfills rather than drains…. Although sometimes a little balancing of the two is in order.

Maintaining Order

Many need organization and consistency in their workspace. They need to walk into the same office and follow the same procedures each day. When I am working with others, this is my preference. I like having the tools I need for my job with as few as possible wrenches thrown in for bad measure. Some may need a rigid structure for their freelancing. If that’s you, learn to demand it. Don’t apologize.

Beyond the Physical

Workspace also is more than a physical location. It is a state of mind. It is about giving yourself to do what you need to do to feel fulfilled and productive in your work. It is about feeling valued and valuing yourself in what you do. That can be a tough one, and it can take lots of trial and error, but it’s most certainly an interesting ride.

Start Somewhere Again

There is some conventional wisdom out there that mentions things about failing and planning and how the two are supposed to intermingle somehow. The tone of the quote suggests that an exact plan for  life or the next little piece of it, needs a plan. But there has always been a part of me that has resisted this wisdom, and it is likely why many consider me unwise. I’d say I’m okay with that, but it is not entirely true. It hurts to be patronized, to have others try to dictate your next move, or impose their plan on you — even if their intentions are good. The privilege to pick the wrong ingredients, make the wrong moves, and execute the wrong plan is one that I cherish, even when it means failure. Because failure does not have to mean a four-way brick wall. There was a way into the failure, and there is a way out. You just have to start somewhere, again, and only you can decide what your next move should be.

Finding the Dream

Writing and reading and stories have been important to me my entire life. At age 6, I declared that I would be a writer one day, and I both read and wrote a lot. Most of my friends have been fictional characters. Life happened, success and failure marbled together. I earned a degree, but still struggled raising two kids on my own, but found plenty to be proud of. I had many balls to juggle, and dropped many of them — including the corporate one and found myself unemployed.

I tried to do what I was supposed to. Send resumes, fill out applications, go on interviews, etc. etc. Job hunting is not a fun dream for me. It is a devastating stress filled process where my chronic low self-esteem goes haywire and I am certain that the person who is interviewing me sees me in much the way the Lilliputians saw Gulliver, with every pore and imperfection exposed and the words that might convince them that I am qualified for anything escape me. At best, I come off as a dope. It rips at everything positive left in me, and somehow I have to keep going back into the ringer again. They want stories of my corporate superhero antics and how I saved the company thousands if not millions. But the thing is, if I ever was a superhero at work, I did not make note of it. I try to mind my own business and do the job assigned as best I can, and offer suggestions if they come to me. Finally, when I got too dizzy on the job hunting roller coaster where there seemed to be no way anyone was ever going to see me as the right fit for anything I decided to say, “screw interviews” and try to make my own success.

Other People’s Words

When I started writing with an intent to make money, I did so by writing other people’s words. There was still compromise, but if I truly took issue with a client’s philosophy, I had the option of not taking a specific job, and another one would come. Much of the time, I wrote for next to nothing. Other times pay was pretty good. I was never rich or even got very far beyond the whole “starving artist” cliché, but I did manage to save a bit. I made a solo train pilgrimage from Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN to Portland, Oregon to their Wordstock Writer’s Festival and to see Powell’s bookstore. Around the same time I got a puppy, and soon after learned that I was going to be a grandmother. I had had a plan, but other things got in the way. It happens. You can always rewrite it.

While there have been some good things in life, I have struggled again too. I blame no one. I stopped finding opportunities to make myself a priority. My therapy dwindled, as did my medications for a thyroid issue, depression, anxiety, and ADHD as well as the health insurance that covered them. I weaned off, worrying about potential side effects, and not being a slave to Big Pharma. Good vitamins and supplements help, but there are days I miss my Adderall.

Getting motivated to write– even when I know I need the money desperately–has become increasingly difficult. I write web page content for chiropractors and eye doctors, and my back goes out and the world turns blurry. The joy of writing gets lost in the shuffle, and I wind up feeling like one of the best parts of me is gone. Other people’s words and other people’s worlds have left me scrambling to remember who I am, and how I have defined myself to myself for the last 40 years.

There is a pretty good chance that the time will come when this blog will fail, at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned. That’s okay, because hopefully it will get me back to finding my own voice and purpose again — even if the journey is a bit messy.