5.22.2014

Sitting on the Edge of a Low Platform


I have this pair of sandals that I bought at the church rummage sale last year. I paid $4 or so - a remarkable steal, given that they were obviously unworn and worth $140 new. They fit perfectly, and they are this great neutral gray color that is great for a lazy fashionista (I use this term loosely) who doesn't really love having to toggle between her black and brown purses.

The complicating factor is that they are platform sandals. I haven't measured them, but I'd guess they make me about three and a half inches taller than I really am. It's generally kind of fun to walk around as a faux tall person. But with every step I take, there is an imminent danger that I will fall off of my shoes. I've done it several times already; one foot doesn't land exactly even and I'm instantly careening. It's a wonder I haven't twisted an ankle or failed to catch myself before landing, gracelessly, on the sidewalk.

But this is not, in fact, a post about shoes.

I've been part of some conversations about platform lately, as well as read a few thoughtful posts about it, including Ellen Painter Dollar's and Micha Boyett's, plus this one here and that one there. Platform, in the context of writing and publishing and the Internet, is your "reach." Your influence. Your clout with a "K".  It's a combination of all the things a writer does to garner interest in his or her work, and these days it's mostly a matter of social media. How many followers you have on Twitter, how many hits on your website, how many "shares" on Facebook - much of it is completely quantifiable.

And these days, it's all but mandatory for most writers to build their own platforms - that is, if you ever want to get a book contract and do any "real" writing. Most writers agree that it's an exhausting thing to maintain. The pressure to produce work to keep your name in the game distracts from the work that keeps your heart on the page.

I started this blog nearly ten years ago, before blogs were a necessary plank in one's professional platform. For the first five years or so, I didn't aim for total anonymity, but neither did I publish my name on my blog.

I started any day a beautiful change because I wanted to be a writer and I wasn't having any luck getting my work published. I figured I could use the practice, and that maybe having a tiny audience (at one point, entirely people to whom I am related) would give me the accountability a private journal could not. It became a record of my first years of ministry, and then my first years of motherhood.

I always felt sort of silly and ambivalent about it - like, who takes a blog seriously? - but the blog books I've printed through Blurb are among my most cherished possessions. They remind me of stories I've long forgotten.

In this newest iteration of any day a beautiful change, I don't do much recording of my days. There are probably lots of reasons for this, but three stand out.

Facebook is one. It's easier to dash off a status update, even though it doesn't have the same feeling of permanency as this space does.

I'm also busy, with a full time job and a family and a decent amount of writing responsibilities elsewhere. In this way, my blog experiment is a smashing success. I am a far better writer than I was in 2004, and the writing I've done here is largely responsible. I used to receive rejections; now I receive invitations.

The third reason is the one that makes me sad. I think at some point along the way, my "platform" got tall enough that I subconsciously started editing myself out of it. (Note: "tall enough" is still very, very short compared to most of my esteemed writing colleagues. But who needs to compare.)

When you're trying to nurture a vocation as a writer, should you really click "publish" on posts about your cats or what you did last weekend? Surely it's entirely unprofessional for me to include, for instance, that I am presently rejoicing with exceeding great joy because Genevieve decided she was ready to be potty trained this week.

There's a danger in wearing platform shoes that are too tall. Perhaps there's also a danger in trying to construct a platform beneath oneself that is too steep for comfort.

I don't want to stand on a towering platform. You can find me here instead, sitting on the edge of a low platform.






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