Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I’m a big fan of Jeremy & Kathleen, Kathleen Shannon’s blog about her and her husband’s life. It’s a regular read for me, as she frequently touches on the difficulties of being a creative person and has gorgeously photographed adventures (check out their trip to Nepal). Today, I was struck by Kathleen’s most recent post about the outfits for award ceremonies. The whole post is short enough that you could go read it and come back and I wouldn’t even notice, but the facts are these:
Last year Kathleen won Best in Print at the ADDYS. She got gussied up in a “hey look at me” tight gold dress to accept this clear recognition of the work she’s put in as a designer and the respect her peers have for her. A year later, and Kathleen’s consulting business Braid is far more important to her than her identity as a graphic designer, so showing up in a tight gold dress (or showing up at all) is less of thing. She went to cheer on some friends, wearing a silk kimono-style robe from the lingerie section of a department store. Because once she put it on, she says, “I truly felt like me.”
You can see the difference:
Which has me thinking of all the Tight Gold Dresses I’ve put on in my life. The things I’ve done so that everyone looks my way.
When I was just starting out with my writing career, I wore a lot of Tight Gold Dresses. I had to. Without a backlog of work, it can be hard to get people to look at what you’re doing. 365 Tomorrows was a Tight Gold Dress, an attempt for the 5 of us to make up in spectacle what we lacked in experience.We wanted to show we belonged to the community of writers, so we wrote as much and as fast as we could, and through those stories on to the net with as much fanfare as we could muster.
Ask Comrade Cockroach is another, more recent Tight Gold Dress. While I love the character of Comrade Cockroach and creating many more stories involving him, Ask Comrade Cockroach didn’t spring out of a particular creative need; I just wanted a webcomic. I felt if I had a webcomic, I could be seen by more eyes, and I would be part of a group of people who make webcomics.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that either 365 Tomorrows or Ask Comrade Cockroach are failures. I have been extremely fortunate in that all my attempts to wear Tight Gold Dresses have met with success. But I don’t think I need to wear them anymore.
There will be more flash fiction from me, and comics involving Comrade Cockroach. But they will not be done so people can look at me, so I can celebrate my belonging to a tribe. They will be done because I want to do them, I have something to say in that medium, and I am going to take the time and craft necessary to make something unique and completely and totally me. You can compare the Ask Comrade Cockroach comics with the Hanner Gatling mini-comic Steve and I did, if you want to see the difference.
One thing is done to get attention, to say as loudly as possible that I Belong Here. The other is done because expresses who I am, whether that means I belong or not. Like wearing a colorful silk robe to a black-tie gala.
At the risk of sounding Zen, I’m wondering if I should be looking at things in terms of journey rather than result. I’m in a really good place right now. After months of trials, my psychiatrist and I have discovered a medication that keeps my depression at bay. I have a published book, which had a boffo release, and is coming out in paperback in April. I have an agent who believes in my talent. I have best partner I could ever ask for. The things struggled against and fought toward are no longer concerns. They have become facts of my life. I can look around and say “Okay. What is the best direction to go in” without having to worry about whether it’s the quickest, or the one that will get the most notice, or the one everyone else is taking, or even the one with the shiniest prize at the end.
Speaking of prizes, didja’ know you can nominate The Battle of Blood & Ink for Hugo? But I digress…
This something I’ve been toying with long before Kathleen came along with the perfect metaphor. A few months ago, I came to realization that while I have many talented friends who are game designers–including an award-winning one I married–I’m not really a game designer, despite some (cough) game attempts. I recently hopped off Facebook, as it was no longer being an effective way to communicate and was slowly driving me crazy (and if there’s ever been a website made entirely of Tight Gold Dresses, it’s Facebook). Weeks ago, I started making luchadore masks, a project that was originally about overhauling my Comrade Cockroach costume by has now turned into a mission to improve my craftsmanship. I am seriously considering grad school again, after dismissing it because I didn’t feel it was enough of Tight Gold Dress, despite the enjoyment (and As) I got out of the classes I took.
There’s noting wrong with putting on the Tight Gold Dress, making a scene and showing you belong. But I think I’ve done that enough. It’s time for me to put the Tight Gold Dresses away, and start wondering which Colorful Silk Robe I should wear instead.
Though, if the right non-metaphorical tight gold dress came along, I would happily put it on. Just gotta find one that complements my legs and my beard.