Instant Gratification

I was talking to a friend the other day who is interested in writing but isn’t sure if his stuff is good enough to put “out there.” I told him that the most difficult part about embarking upon a writing career is to overcome that fear that you may not be good enough. If you write, you are good enough. Period. Writers really only need to please themselves, after all.

Well, that is, unless you want to make money doing so. Then some consideration of your target audience is necessary.

I began my writing “career” as (what a friend of mine called me) a “paper prostitute.” Let me ‘splain. I was a professional plagiarist, writing research papers for college and graduate students. For six years, I researched, wrote, and cited nearly 4,000 papers on so many topics that I swear I have the equivalent knowledge of 14 master’s degrees right now. No joke.

I am also intimately familiar with nearly every citation style under the sun: MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago, Harvard, AMA, APSA, and Bluebook, among others. In-text citations, footnotes, end notes, works cited, bibliography, sources, references, abstracts: you name it, I know it.

And before you ask, yes, this is legal. Just don’t get caught. Kidding. Yes, it’s legal-ish but really not ethical. I rationalized my efforts as providing an in-demand service and I wasn’t plagiarizing anyone else, after all. But, to be technical, I was selling my work to someone who passed it off as his/her own, and herein is where the ethical dilemma lies. Regardless, as I was able to get through graduate school and support myself during this time: so be it. And numerous other students were able to finish their degrees as well. With my knowledge.

Here’s a humorous story. Several years ago one of my friends from high school called me to tell me her son was in the emergency room. She actually said, “This doctor sucks. I bet you did his homework.”

Needless to say, after six years I burned myself out in this sphere and pursued a more creative journey. While sponsoring my inmate writing group during my stint as a prison GED instructor, I became enamored with sonnets and set out to craft as many as I could. I embraced other poetic styles as well like limericks and haiku. The end result: I have published ten poetry collections, two of which are retired.

So, how did I garner the courage to put my work out there, you may ask? I discovered a wonderful online writing community at Prose. Not only has Prose helped me get my stuff “out there,” it has helped me through my chronic writer’s block as many fellow Prosers post challenges.

I have also met some amazing people and have acquired quite a following which satisfies my latent need for external praise and recognition. Additionally, Prose provides instant gratification. If you’re like me (and pretty much every other human being on the planet), instant gratification is quite the motivator. I remember one day I undertook 14 challenges. And whoa, the instant gratification from likes, reposts, and comments was amazing!

Another great outlet for the burgeoning creative writer who is interested in poetry is Twitter. Because you have only 140 characters, micropoetry is the rage on Twitter. I began posting my haiku and tagging certain people and organizations with a large following who would retweet my work and get me “out there.” One of my favorites is the Micropoetry Society (@pssms). So, if you don’t have the time for time-consuming writing, micropoetry is a fun and mentally stimulating avenue.

The most important thing to remember is to try. Eventually, you will succeed.

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.” ~ Steven Wright

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