The Valiant Little Tailor and Other Brave Declarations

If ever there was a fairy tale character to look up to, I think Grimm’s The Valiant Little Tailor should be at the top of the list. Here was a man who had no problems telling the world about his amazing deed, even though the “seven in one stroke” he killed were only flies who wanted his jam. It led to other great deeds with giants, unicorns and even marrying a princess.

The reason I admire the Valiant Little Tailor (or VLT for short) is his ability to declare his accomplishments to anyone and everyone he meets. I think we all have parts of ourselves of which we’re proud, but don’t date tell anyone. Mine is easy—I’m a writer.

I know that sounds like a statement from Captain Obvious, but I find it challenging to tell people I’m a writer. I have this recurring fantasy where I finally tell everyone while simultaneously passing around copies of my newly published book. In a sense, I’m a closeted writer and I only tell people I trust to keep it quiet.

But why? As I continue to navigate the publishing world, words like platform and following keep popping up. I know my silence will only hurt my chances of generating buzz and keeps me from things like Facebook and Twitter. Even this blog has the name FairytaleFeminista, but I’ve never listed my name. It’s hard to put yourself out there, but people who want to make their living in creative fields have to do it constantly.

Writing becomes so personal because it’s mostly you and your words inhabiting a cozy universe of your making. In this world you can delete the unpleasant bits, reword the awkward phrases, and configure personalities that fit into your creation. When your writing becomes public, you can’t erase what other people think, do, or write about your work. And honestly, who’s a bigger control freak than a person invents people and decides their fates based on the needs of a plot. Doctors have nothing on writers when it comes to a God complex!

Was VLT on to something? Should we just emblazon our truth on a sash and wear it out in the world? When is the right time to “come out” to friends and family about your literary aspirations? Will it be more like a debutant announcing herself at a cotillion or am I declaring my alternative lifestyle, horrifying the practical 9 to 5ers in my life? Well, I’ve taken a few positive steps in that regard and introduced myself as a writer to a stranger. That was easy. Let’s try some more.

Hello, my name is Ivia Cruz and I’m a writer. I’ve written three novels and I’m working on a fourth.

That felt good.

Now what should I do about that LinkedIn page?

How about you? What’s your VLT story?

Community in the Wilderness: Searching for a Writer’s Group in the Wilds of the Web

“Why did you start a blog?”

It’s a question I get asked periodically by people who don’t write blogs. The honest answer is “platform”. It’s one of those buzzwords you can’t escape if you go to conferences, subscribe to newsletters, and generally stay abreast of the latest in writing and publishing. You hear it often enough that you begin to feel inadequate or inauthentic as a writer if you don’t have one. So, kicking and screaming I began a blog that focuses on fairy tales. It made the best sense because the YA series I’m working on is based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

At first, it was a chore. I agonized over the About Me section, trying to sounds both informative and pithy enough that other people would want to read it. I tried to look at it as my “trial by fire” because whatever I wrote would immediately be critiqued. At least that’s what I thought until I realized how hard it is to make your lone voice heard in the cacophony that is the blogosphere. But even when I wasn’t read, I felt as though each posting was a courageous effort to put myself out there–proof I was a writer each time I clicked Publish.

My best day was when, out of nowhere, a random person started following by blog. My initial reaction was, “Why are you following me?” But soon that gave way to real happiness and a renewed optimism in this process. Maybe blogging could be rewarding. Maybe I could grow to love it. Well, I was happy that I could at least find times to like it.

I kept writing. I also kept blogging and reveled in every new follower. I would post and click (too often) on the Stats page to see if my post was being viewed. Often I would be disappointed by the turnout. Sometimes I was surprised by what really got people’s attention. Nevertheless, I continued hoping to find the magic recipe of topic and writing that would make readers want another helping. Then I fell into what all bloggers can attest to.

Call it Blogger’s Blahs or Poster’s Paralysis, but I felt discouraged by the lack of interest and my lack of ideas. It came in waves, and then the Blahs ebbed because a new reader joined or a new comment would buoy me. The realization was almost anti-climactic. What I really wanted was not readership, I wanted community.

Deen Village Scotland

My search takes me everywhere

Blogs about how to find a writer’s group or a critique circle are endless. They have stories of writer’s being bestowed with the friendship of like-minded writers like the Commandments. It all sounds so warm and inviting, a stark contrast to the solitary clicking of cold computer keys. You’re encouraged to branch out, make connections, join clubs and all will fall into place. Well, after a few hits and misses and, just like the querying process, you’ll find the perfect match for you. It’s like blind group dating or “Naked and Afraid” writer’s edition.

My attempts to find my tribe have been mixed. I have one writer friend who is very dedicated to helping me with my writing and we’ve forged a friendship of respect and reciprocity that makes me believe in serendipity. But you learn early on that you need lots of eyes on your work.
The rest of my circle (non-writers all) have fallen away, unable to keep up with the back and forth of rewrites. For once I could say without fear of sounding clichéd—It’s a writer thing, you wouldn’t understand. So, my search continues. Blogs exist to create a virtual community, but eventually virtual isn’t enough.

Why did I start a blog? The short answer is to find more readers, but now I know it’s really to find more writers.

Why did you start a blog? Is it the same reason you keep blogging?

The Danger

All endeavors have their pitfalls. Lawyers can become too jaded. Doctors–to robotic. Policymakers–to self-interested. And it doesn’t stop at professions. A mountain climber will tackle an even taller mountain because she hasn’t found one that has beaten her–yet. Surfers are always searching for that big wave and there’s a moment between doubt and sheer terror where invincibility washes all questions away. For every creative person the next work, the next piece, the next manuscript digs a little deeper (you hope) until you reach a core where only you live. That’s the danger. Living inside your head so much that no one can get in. That’s what all these risks have in common–standing in your own way.

Now that I’ve made this post sound so esoteric, let me bring you back to earth. I’m a writer and one of the things I write (obviously) is this blog. I concentrate on fairy tales, myths, and such and how they speak to us now. Not on an academic level, although it can sneak in there sometimes, but on a everyday human level. What does that mean? It means that I tend to spend a lot of time in my head figuring out what I think, feel, and believe regarding entertaining fiction. But living in my head I have a tendency, as many of us do, to overanalyze–to reach for something that maybe no one else sees. Nothing’s more jarring to an analyst than someone who reads your thoughts and comes back with, “Really? You went there?” “Yeah, I went there! And what?” Okay that’s defensive, but you get the point. But when you can’t find something in your bag of tricks, you tend to reach for snark.

This idea has been swirling around in my head for a while now and it started with Frozen, the new Disney movie sensation. I won’t pretend that I didn’t love it–because I did both as a parent and as a life-long lover of all (well, almost all) things Disney–but it’s gotten a little over the top. People want to dress up like Ana and Elsa, they record themselves singing, Let it Go, for public consumption, and they overanalyze the message. Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate the fact that (spoiler alert!) the main idea is true love which doesn’t involve a prince. I’m writing a series trying to debunk the myth that all girl-power adventure stories have to have a romantic focus. I just think that the cult-like following it’s attracting is…I’m searching for a word that isn’t too judge-y…unbelievable. It’s middle-aged women obsessing over Twilight unbelievable. Okay that was judge-y. Then I go back to my defensive analyst and hear others saying, “Yeah, I went there! And what?” To which I have no response.

We all have our own obsessions. Mine just happen to be quiet and solitary, while others can be loud and in your face. I came to blogging kicking and screaming and still haven’t joined Facebook or Twitter. I’m not secretive or shy, but I find I’m intimate. I’d rather have drinks at a bar than shots at the club. So, to end this long digression here’s the danger of blogging–living in your head and then being too judgmental of other people’s headspace. While it can be constructive, sometimes is can be cruel (like my Twilight remark). And though I don’t promise that I’ll always be big enough to take the high road, I like to think that I’m conscious of the danger.