Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Being Julie Baker

"You're no Anne Lamott."

Those were the words that completely and totally energized me.

They were spoken by a published author and an old friend of one of my closest committee members. I like and respect this woman's writing a great deal which is why I was even talking to her about my book at a Lobster Bake in Maine a couple weeks ago. She asked me what my book was about and, in an attempt to encapsulate the theme, I said that it was a collection of essays and a journal of my first year with MS. I added that I wanted my book to speak to people with MS the way that Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions spoke me when I was a new mother and when I have Terrible Mother attacks now.

Believe me. I know that I am not Anne Lamott or even in the same league. I was trying to explain that I wanted to be authentic, brutally honest, and beautifully human about my MS in the way that Anne Lamott writes about being a single mom in Operating Instructions. I admire Anne Lamott's ability to tell the truth even when it's embarrassing. Especially when it's embarrassing. She digs deep and finds the ugly stuff, the stuff we don't want people to know, the stuff we don't even want to know about ourselves, and then she writes about it and puts it out there for all the world to see. And then, it's ok. It's ok that she feels all that ugliness which makes it ok for us to feel it, too. And that's when the magic happens. The ugliness becomes beautiful.

Anne Lamott is my Lance Armstrong, my Pavarotti, my Meryl Streep. She is the best at what she does. She is the best at what I want to do.

So....when I heard that I was no Anne Lamott, I felt ashamed. I worried that I was trying to be something way beyond my abilities and talents. I thought "Who are you kidding, Julie? Of course you're no Anne Lamott! Why don't you just write your marketing copy and be happy with that!"

But, you know what? Those feelings passed. The negative self talk slipped away and I took all that energy that I once used to tear my self esteem to shreds and focused it on making positive connections and taking steps toward getting my book published.

Although I have aways feared "networking," I started reaching out to all the people in my various social and professional networks and asked for advice and encouragement. And I got it! I even sent emails to writers I admired to make new connections. Several responded to my requests to add them to my network. Other writers offered to be my readers/editors; a former co-worker turned life coach promised me three free sessions; a friend who just launched a PR agency offered to promote me and the book; others gave me the names of books and websites to read and visit for more information; and several people offered to connect me to their agents and/or publishing contacts.

This woman was right: I am no Anne Lamott . But you know what? I am Julie M. Baker. I am me and I'm going to make the most of that. Life is way too short to focus on what I'm not and what I can't/shouldn't do.

Now is better than never.

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