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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Connection—>Connection—>Connection—>



The first time I was ever approached by a reader, I was completely floored to find out that I'd connected with them in a big way.

Imagine ol' me in college poetry class. Poetry is an art form out of my grasp, mostly because I'm not a big reader of said poetry and other than the occasional bout of Emily Dickinson, I don't care much for it. So for class I had to write poetry, pretending I was Dickinson, or um, Emerson, or you know, like one of those famous poets that changed the world—but mostly I just settled for not rhyming. 

And I'd already embarrassed myself once in that class by writing a poem that was mostly a rip off of the song "Lola" by the Kinks (hey I'd been listening to it while writing), and my readers—rabid English majors all—had called me out on my bullshit, critiquing the piece into oblivion. 

So I had to go deeper. In fiction, I was used to mining deep, but poetry? Um? What?

Prose poetry. Ah, that was almost like writing flash fiction, but with some meter and verse and stuff. Prose poetry. Okay, this I can work with! I went to work, thinking hard.

My next poem was a story about the narrator growing up in a small town, as a little girl working hard to buy her own toys. The poem went on, the narrator being jealous that her best friend always got whatever she wanted, whenever, and that best friend even made it into a contest to see who could buy more toys. The friend begged her parents, the narrator worked harder. In the end, the best friend gloated at her victory, while the narrator cherished what she had.

The poetry class was ruthless. Someone even said, "At least it's not a song."

There was a girl in my class, who like other English majors, I'd seen in a couple of my other classes. But we'd never spoken, and I didn't know much about her. Couldn't even remember her name, though she'd been just as outspoken about the Lola-rip-off-poem as everyone else. After class as I gathered up my things, she approached me timidly.

"Your poem," she said, hesitating. "I really liked it. That little girl was...me."

Surprised, I didn't know what to say.

"That was my childhood," she said. "I felt like you wrote that poem about me."

I felt like some sort of horrible writing fraud as she told me more about her life growing up poor, something which she wasn't ashamed of, saying it made her who she was—now the first one in her family to go to college. The more she talked about the girl in the poem, the more I saw that I'd connected with my reader.

And that scared the ever loving piss out of me. I wasn't flattered, no, I felt like I'd done something wrong. Even though, connecting with your reader is the WHOLE POINT. I'd thought the piece was crappy when I'd turned it in. Again, writers are their own worst judges sometimes. But who was I to make this stranger feel something?

This is the Fraud Police, and we've got you surrounded. We know you're a terrible writer, so hand over the piece, and no one gets hurt.

There are times where I still feel like that.

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