A Writer or a Hack? : 30 Days of Truth


Day 11 : Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

(Note:  I started writing this two months ago)

This prompt could not have come at a better possible time.

In my real life, there isn’t much I get complimented on. In fact, I just asked my husband his thoughts on this prompt. His response? A poor joke, followed by a, “I don’t know.” CoF, seriously, I think C.S. needs some husband boot camp.

All of the little girls at work love my hair. An elder creeper, insisting to talk to me despite me clearly wearing earphone and typing on WordPress for Blackberry, told me that I had pretty eyes. I was pretty glad the bus pulled up to the curb moments later.

Otherwise, I get quite the opposite of compliments. It’s okay, I’m used to it.

Here on WordPress, and especially everyone involved with the dialogue happening here on Pendulum, and on our local mental health blog A Canvas of the Minds, compliments are plentiful. I will spare details, mostly because I am embarrassed to talk about myself. And secondly, because I’m not sure I can completely believe it. I sit here and think, “If you only knew me.”

I find that I am most complimented on my writing.  Believe me, I am ambivalent to share that for a number of reasons.  First, I know that once a person reveals what appears to be a strength, it is preyed upon.  In my youth, I was eager to display my intelligence and talents.  There was always at least one person who was eager to take me down, either out of jealousy or just to prove a point of fallibility.  Next, I am often unsure of how much truth there is in identifying a strength or talent.  There is always some doubt and question of the validity of such a claim.  What is the measure?  Is it a popular opinion?

And finally, there is the self-doubt / humility aspect.  I do not make any claim that I am better than anyone else.  I am by no means a brilliant writer, and clearly not in the league of literary greats.  Hardly by the standard of journalist and even fellow blog authors.  I am not making an attempt to solicit compliments by saying these things.  I am only stating that I have serious doubts as to the claims made of any talent I possess.  However, I will not refute any opinion, favorable or unfavorable.

However, if there is one literary strength I have, I do know of it.  I have always possessed an uncanny ability to find a verbal expression for emotions, thoughts, and experiences.  Most often, I have had people approach me and say, “You grabbed it right out of my head, as if you lived in there with me.”  Some ask, “How do you find the words?”  To which I reply, “I really don’t know.  It just comes out.”

The answer is absolutely honest when I provide it.  I am unable to identify the mechanisms that produce the detailed emotions and internal experience.  Imagination?  Experience with the experience / emotion / thought itself?  Education?  Really, it is just something that was always there.  But, I will admit that it is a craft that I’ve unconsciously refined throughout the years, just by practicing what has been just a hobby throughout my life.

I’ve mentioned this before.  My poor eyesight has always been kind of a handicap for me.  Back in my youth, my family could not afford to provide me with glasses more than once a year, or once every other year.  Often times, I would have to wear an outdated prescription for an extended period of time, as my eyesight deteriorated.  Sometimes, I would break a pair by accident, and I wouldn’t be able to get a new pair for upwards of a year.  I learned to see and identify things by shape and color, rather than fine detail.  I could identify people by voice alone.  And one of the only hobbies I could really do without any difficulty was reading and writing, because I could only see about as far as my hand could go in front of my face.  (Note:  My vision has deteriorated so badly now that I can’t even see my hand as far as my face.  In fact, I can’t even see a book at a normal distance.  But, I have the means to correct my vision on my own now.)

I suppose I could consider it a talent, although I’m not sure how I stack up.  I guess I should worry less about a basis for comparison and just do what I do, the best way I know how.

Finally, I’d like to thank the readers for their encouragement to write.  Sometimes, it’s just a matter of necessity for my mental health.  There are other times, like these projects, where it is a matter of a pleasurable hobby.  And other times, most of the time, it is a way for me to get my message out and have a sense of purpose when it comes to my own mental health.  I do not want to feel as if my suffering is in vain.  I do not want anyone to ever have the feeling that they are alone in their own struggle with mental health.  That is the worst feeling in the world, the loneliness, isolation, and fear that accompanies it.

Thanks for giving me a place to do this, encouragement to keep on, and an audience to hear me.

19 thoughts on “A Writer or a Hack? : 30 Days of Truth

    • Ha! I don’t deserve the compliments. I really don’t. It’s not really a concentrated effort most of the time. Sometimes, it’s just what comes out. I don’t find that I edit, because the editing process is a critical thinking exercise that drives me to the brink of insanity. It just becomes an obsessive thing. So, I don’t. English teachers always really hated that about my writing. But, for some reason, it always came out clear and concise enough for me to get a 4 on that portion. I always though it was a rambling mess, truthfully.

    • Aww, thank you. Really, I don’t like making compliments toward myself. It’s not always a self-loathing kind of deal. Sometimes, it’s really a fear response. I’ll make a comparison to “The Hunger Games”, though I know many have not read it yet. There is a point where Katniss, the main character, is about to begin training for the games. Her mentor instructs her not to show off her talent with her archery, because others would find out and use it against her. They’d find a way to take away her bow, and leave her with an inferior weapon that she lacked skill in. It would leave her as a sitting duck.

      That’s how I feel. Somehow, if I were to announce my strengths, they would suddenly disappear, or someone would try to rob me of them, or the mechanism that makes it work. I remember that I used to display talents pretty freely, because I was proud. Pride and accomplishment were the only things I had. But, there was always one person who wanted to take that away from me. It wasn’t enough for them to have their own pride and accomplishment. It meant nothing to them unless they bested someone else.

      So, there was always an adversary to push my pressure points. And I would eventually crumble, because they preyed on a vulnerability. And they would win, and I would give up on the thing entirely, just because I lacked the faith in myself that I could stand up and win the war, even if I had lost the battle. It was this fear that I would see failure after failure. And it was not wanting to give anyone the satisfaction of humiliating me through making me look inferior. It opened others up to challenge me too. That’s what Katniss was afraid of. She’d make herself a target by being better than everyone else. People would try harder to take her out.

      There was the nail in the coffin for my talents. I was pretty serious about going to music school, because I was one of the best. What made me the best is that I was all around in the top 10. Many music kids only had one instrument, or talent, whether it was with brass instruments, or vocals, or percussion. I had multiple talents. I played multiple instruments, some better than others. I had a vocal range from tenor 1 to soprano 2. I could pick out pitches, melodies, and harmonies with ease. I had a really good ear, and my brain somehow had music as a second language.

      Well, there is always someone who wants to challenge that. I did rise to the occasion. I started playing obscure instruments with difficult parts. I started pushing the limits of my voice to tenor 2 and soprano 1, which is probably as far a woman’s vocal range can go. The only thing this boy couldn’t best me on was singing and percussion. I could find a beat better than him, and I could put a new rhythm to it. He couldn’t. All he could do was copycat.

      But, he did eventually take me down. We played the same instrument as our choice instrument, saxophone. Specifically tenor saxophone, though he preferred baritone. (Baritone was too big for me, I would have literally been dragging it on the ground when I walked). And at a public performance, I choked. I tried to take on too much, doing a singing part and a sax part, and I choked. And he bested me by composing a piece himself, coordinating the parts with friends, and performing several parts with several instruments.

      And I was defeated. I gave up on the idea that I could cut it at music school, and just, I don’t know, gave up. I kept playing and singing, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. He went on to music school and clawed his way up to being a decent vocal teacher. And then they shut down his program and he became a social studies teacher. I guess he had to give up on the dream too.

      Me? I bet this drives him insane. I accidentally fell into a job as a general ed music / vocal teacher / musical theater teacher. Ha! I didn’t go to school for music, actually I went for psychology. He might have taken his choir to state, but I took my musical to the August Wilson Center in the city of Pittsburgh with a crowd of at least 300. Suck on that.

      But, that was all by accident. I was in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t even my goal. Music had become a hobby I dabbled in. Now, it’s my job. But, I’m still scared that I’m going to screw it up, or that someone is going to think that I’m not qualified to do it. At least I have some job security, as long as my funding doesn’t get cut. I’m the only one in that area that teaches music.

      • I understand what you’re saying. I’ve loved writing ever since I was a kid. When I was growing up and starting going to writing camps, I began to realize just how many people were better than me and it was a really harsh reality. However, despite that, I kept writing. I kept writing not because I wanted to “beat out” the other kids who were better than me, but because writing was the only way that I could let out the pain and fear I was feeling on a daily basis due to growing up with CP.
        I’ve had setbacks in my writing. I have extremely low self-esteem, and it took me a very long time to even come out and say, “I’m a good writer.” Even now, after having my blog since November and getting all sorts of positive feedback on my writing, I’m still pretty much in the same place. Even though the support and belief in my writing from my blog followers has help my self-esteem, I’ve discovered the number one rule when it comes to writing: Write for no one but yourself. Therefore, that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing on my blog every day, I’m working on my memoir of my life with Cerebral Palsy, and I’m writing a few articles here and there connected with how I’ve dealt with living with CP. Truthfully though, the strength I have now found within myself from being able to talk about a past that I never thought I’d want to even think about again has brought me more joy than I ever would have gotten had I chosen to focus on being a better writer than those around me.

        • OMG, my year anniversary is coming up! I have to put it in my phone or else I’ll forget to write an anniversary post!


          Okay, it’s in there. It’s been almost a year for me. I feel like I’ve made a steady climb with it. It’s quite the occasion, because other than my personal journals, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to manage a project for longer than a few months. Believe me, there were times I thought about abandoning it, just because I couldn’t keep up, or I thought I just wasn’t being relevant or interesting. I’m proud to have been able to maintain it, and I’m even more proud that I’ve been able to make friends, keep relationships, and get personal with people. It’s hard for me to make connections and keep them. I’m just bad at it for a number of reasons.

          I’ve never really taken my writing seriously. I’ve had a number of writing projects, and most were very successful, until I couldn’t keep up with it anymore. My first writing project was a poetry group on Yahoo Groups when I was sixteen. Wildly successful, number one in all of the list, over 500 followers. I appointed very close people to me as moderators and such. But, things started happening in my life that just made me quit. My ex and I broke up, and I stopped writing entirely. He broke me in so many ways. Those were things that took me awhile to fix.

          In fact, I stopped writing for . . . about a six months before my husband and I got together. That would have been about four years? I had only started to keep journals again. When my husband and I did get together, he was still writing. He was brilliant. I only say was because he hasn’t written much of anything since our son was born. I don’t know why. He doesn’t really either.

          But, his writing inspired me. I never told him that directly. He would leave me these lovely poetry notes on the computer before he left for work. I would add a line or a stanza for him. And then, slowly but surely, I started writing again when I wrote “Decent into Hell” back in 2007. It took me almost five years in total to write the sequel, Possibility and Ascension. It wasn’t because I couldn’t write, or I wasn’t inspired. I had plenty of inspiration. I just wanted it to be just right. There is a third one that is supposed to go to it, but I haven’t really started it yet. I wanted to wait five years from the start of the first one in 07 to even begin it. It’s supposed to detail the course of my marriage, the good and the bad. That five year mark is coming up next month.

          So, now there is Pendulum and Canvas, but I can’t take all of the credit for Canvas. Canvas was the lovely brain child of Ruby and me. But, Canvas could never have been Canvas without all of the contributors and authors. It’s still growing, and that’s the point. Canvas belongs to everyone. I’m glad it does, because I’ve been neglectful there. But, that was also that point. If it belongs to everyone, then there isn’t one person responsible for it. It doesn’t sink or swim based on one person alone. I just wish I had the focus to get back to it. I’m trying.

          For me, writing has never really been like music. Music was a competition. Writing has been a hobby, but mostly therapy. Sometimes it’s an expression or a gift for and to others. It’s never been a competition, and I never usually cared what anyone thought of it. Most of it was secret anyway. The things I had to write for school were held highly by English teachers, but I think it’s because I was one of the only ones who enjoyed the subject and took it seriously. But, according to my boss, as light hearted as I can be, I’m also a very serious person. Everything is serious. LOL. It’s true, I guess.

          So, writing, as much as it is serious for me, has never been anything I pursued with any intention of going anywhere. Not like music, which was supposed to be my lifelong passion. Not like psychology, which was my other lifelong passion. (Psychology, like music, is an innate thing for me. It comes naturally, like a native language. I don’t have to think about it.) Writing is only partially native to me, because I am passionate about it. But, I’m not ambitious about it, is what I think I’m trying to say.

          I’d like to be. But, I don’t want to ruin it. I think one of the questions in the 500 questions that will free your mind is “If you could get paid to do anything, what would it be?” I like what I do. I really, really do. I love the kids, and I love music. It’s fun and it’s fulfilling. But, if I couldn’t do that, what would I like to do? I’d like to write as a mental health advocate and educator. I’d like to keep blogs, write books, maybe take up an advice column. I’d like to help set up community mental health projects, or maybe get paid to work at a crisis center. Because believe me, Pittsburgh can use all of the help they can get with mental health.

          But, I think the world can too. Especially the United States. Well, I’d only know about the US, because that’s where I live. But, mental health is still so hush-hush. I realize we’ve gone beyond locking our affected relatives away in basements, attics, and institutions, and we’re working toward more of an outpatient rehabilitation model. But, societal attitudes toward mental health are still bad. People see mental health disorders as “excuses” or “lack of willpower or self control”. I don’t feel like people on the outside of this, people I call “norms” (not necessarily in a derogatory way anymore. It’s more like an identifier for people who don’t carry a Dx and don’t have anyone close to them who does. Generally people who are ignorant to mental health issues.), can really grasp it. I think what people teach their children about it is all wrong. Yes, there are people who are affected who are on the street, ranting and raving, and it is frightening. But, the truth is that in a group of four or five people, there is a good chance that one of them is suffering from a mental health disorder. In a crowd of 16, at least one is likely to have a serious mental illness. And these are usually people that we would be none the wiser.

          Those are the people that suffer in silence and keep their “issues” in the dark. And I would say that the greater majority of them have little to no support system, and really do suffer alone, because it’s so frowned upon. Being emotional at all is frowned upon in our society. I think that’s completely against human nature, and we’re moving in the wrong direction as a society.

          Okay, I’m off topic. I’ll stop now, LOL. I’ll save it for a Canvas post.

  1. I think you have a host of good qualities including your skill of painting an image with your words. You are very articulate. You throw me a lot and have to go back and spoon feed it to me sometimes lol.

    • I don’t expect anyone to get it. My husband has an even better skill than I do, and it’s all subject to interpretation. Sometimes, that’s kind of the point. I’d like to go through and rewrite some of the posts that are a little convoluted to explain the situation that was going on at the time. Even for my own record and my own sake. I look at some of the things that I’ve written in the past, and I have a problem putting an interpretation to it, because the memory of the event is gone. So, in short, I have the ability to confuse myself, LOL.

      And hell, to be honest, sometimes I’m not even really sure what I’m saying. It’s just there, in my head like that. My brain gets an interpretation of something. One of the ones that I’ve been working on interpreting in my journal is Pause. Skip. Fast-forward. It’s something my mind came up with to cope with the symptoms I was experiencing at the time.

      Ultradian cycling is something that is really tough on the time, but in the moment, it’s hard to realize how warped things have become. Reality becomes something entirely different, though it looks the same. Sort of, anyway. Looks similar, I should say. Sometimes, there are moments where things are blurry. Things are blurry on the inside, which means the perception of the world is blurry too. Not literally, as in sensory information. Well, maybe a little. But, not so bad as the blurry picture of Downtown Pittsburgh, as represented.

      I think I said something to the effect at one point in time that living in an episode is like being a half-second off of reality. It’s like a detuned radio. It’s all the same, sort of, but it’s either being a half-second faster, or a half-second slower. It’s being out of sync, and I can feel myself being in syncopation with the beat of life. Sometimes it’s enjoyable, like when it’s found in some music. Sometimes, it’s just noise, or bad music. And I don’t know about you, but bad music and noise and such, they hurt my ears and head like nails on a chalkboard.

      Ah, I know exactly what it’s like. Have you ever been on the phone with someone while they were watching the same TV program as you? Or maybe had the same program on upstairs as downstairs. Most of the time, they are not perfectly synced. One is just a tiny bit faster than the other, although they are the same thing. It sounds almost the same, like maybe surround sound, and it makes both programs sound a lot louder than they really are. That’s a part of what an episode feels like. Unreality. Am I making any sense yet? LOL.

      I know I’m a little off right now. I’m pretty sure this hypomania has moved into mania, but not in a severe form. I’ve been like this most days for about three weeks now. Some days are bad mania, but most days are good mania. And everything in my mind screams, “I don’t ever want to make this stop!” So, I’m pretty much telling everyone to just let it be for now, until I start saying things like, I don’t know, I have special powers, or I control people’s minds or something. I should probably write something about that. I probably will later. I can’t stop writing, but writing becomes difficult when I can’t stop moving either. My house has never been so clean.

      I got really off topic there….

      • I understand what you mean about life being off sync and it makes me feel like I’m not in reality. I have a hard time with keeping up with reality. I forget where I am a lot. In the mornings, if things don’t happen a certain way as I “wake” up, I don’t know where I am, which wall the clock is on or sometimes who I am. It is like I should have woke up when the dog came and started licking my hand.It takes me a while to feel like everything is ok. But not just in the morning. The reason I have to have my day in rituals and routine is forthe same reason, I will lose me. or I will see me from outside myself, always behind myself

        • I’m one of those people that no one can talk to in the first fifteen minutes I’m awake. Not at all for any reason, unless it’s an emergency. I am miserable. And even after that first fifteen minutes, it still takes me another ten before I’m awake enough to deal with anything.

          I have to tell houseguests that before I go to bed. Don’t talk to me. I won’t try to talk to you. And if anything makes me angry in that 25 minute period, prepare for my wrath. So if it’s not good news, keep it to yourself.

          Moving in and out of conscious and unconscious states has always been difficult for me, even since I was a child. If I woke up in a different place than I fell asleep, then I’d freak out. If someone woke me up before I was ready, I’d cry. My son is the same way. I pray everyday that he doesn’t grow up to be like me.

          • sometimes when I wake up I think im in my moms house and I am suddenly inraged, or I will think I am my daughter in my moms house, mostly though, I think my daughter is in her old room. I will think that even after I am up and drinking my coffee lol

            • You know, it’s odd, but I feel like a stranger in my parents’ house. They have their living space in the.basement, so years can elapse before I am in the upstairs. So much has changed since I’ve been gone but even the things that haven’t are still foreign. I ran that flight of stairs for 16 years. I could navigate it with my eyes closed. Now, it’s just so alien.

            • I go up my parents stairs because that is where the bathrooms are and I have to pee ever fifteen half hour it seems. But I know what you mean. I don’t feel comfortable at home. I feel like it could be some strangers bathroom

  2. T,
    That is one of my favourite posts of yours. I hope you continue reading. You have a voice, and you sure have a way with words. And since you’re part of my blogroll, my readers need content from you, right? And thank you for the mention, of course.
    Le Clown

  3. I feel what you do about receiving and accepting compliments. I think it’s important to try to remind ourselves that just because someone sees and acknowledges strengths in us doesn’t mean that we have to be the absolute best at that strength. I grew up with a dad who never ever ever ever praised me or positively encouraged me (which is actually hard to write out in itself because it feels as though I’m arguing that there ARE things that I deserved to be praised for… which may be true but I struggle to seek to prove or admit) because even though I [must?] have strengths, I was never actually the best – I may have been the fastest runner in my area, but there were other people in the world who could run faster than me, I may have been creative but there were other people who were already creative AND successful, I may have gotten 99% in something but what happened to that other 1%? I took on his way of thinking about myself and my achievements and failures… but I’m trying to rectify that by reminding myself that I (just like everyone else) have strengths that are valuable and useful whether or not I am number 1 in the world.

    I love this post. I don’t even know you but I could rattle off compliment after compliment if I knew it wouldn’t cause so much conflict within you to hear them 🙂 I’ll just say that I love reading your blog and it has helped me better understand many concepts and feel less alone, so thank you! It really does take someone special and strong to be able to do that.

    • I grew up with a dad who never ever ever ever praised me or positively encouraged me (which is actually hard to write out in itself because it feels as though I’m arguing that there ARE things that I deserved to be praised for… which may be true but I struggle to seek to prove or admit) because even though I [must?] have strengths,

      Now, that ran right up and rang the bell for me. That’s exactly how I would have put it, the part about the arguing that there are good qualities that I should be praised for. Those are the keywords, “are” – proving the existence of, and “should” – proving that I am worthy of such praise, affection, adoration, respect, etc. No lie, it screws a girl up. It puts a lot of questions into my head. Sometimes, I have to force the idea into my head that I am worthy of anything more than complete and utter disdain. And I have to remember to practice it when I’m in decent head space. I have to be extraordinarily mindful of the way I think and feel, and do you know what? Sometimes, it’s completely agonizing. I mean, to explain the mechanics behind it . . . I could go on for pages and pages.

      So, now we go far worse than just wanting recognition for our strengths and achievements. It’s as far down as proving my worth for basic things that should be there, as I discussed in Forget Family. I don’t want to be one of those people that rags on their parents constantly about every little thing they did wrong, etc, etc, and misplacing blame. I am more than aware, excruciatingly aware, that I have blame to shoulder when it comes to my own actions in the here and now. That’s another thing I was taught. I am to blame for every bad thing that ever happens to me and everyone around me. Somehow, I’m supposed to have complete control over every aspect of my life, or I’m a complete failure.

      No, it goes so far down that I have to convince myself that I am more than worthy of someone’s love, affections, and / or friendship. I have to try so hard to convince myself that I actually deserve these things, and that they are things that every human is entitled to. I can’t seem to shake the idea that there is something inherently flawed in me to make me defective beyond redemption. And when someone does show me friendship, affection, love, kind regard, etc, I can’t seem to accept it as truth. I try to find an ulterior motive. Or, I say, “If they could even get close enough to really know me, they’d change their mind.”

      And, that’s among one of the reasons I’ve been less active. I mean, besides the closing of the school year, C.S’s personal stuff, marriage stuff, work stress, changes in lifestyle (running, and stuff), and just not having the time to dedicate to it. But, I realize that if I wanted this badly enough, I would find the time. I would make the time. And I know I’m hiding, because what’s behind this screen isn’t pretty, and hasn’t been for awhile.

      How do I go about talking about that now that I have so many people who really care? I’ve always had difficulty talking about emotions or my own short-comings, because I don’t want to sound like a whiner (another product of my upbringing). The more emotional I would get, the less anyone wanted to deal with me. You know, it’s the whole bit that no one wants to be friends with the sad sack, and other people just have too much in their own lives to get caught up in another person’s drama. Except, I don’t find drama. It finds me.

      And, then there’s the matter of disappointment. Am I a failure for a relapse? I wouldn’t call it a complete relapse, but I would definitely say way more than partial. Do I provide hope for others that are in treatment if I have come so far to take such a huge tumble? Will it be painful for the people who care to watch? Do I take the risk of seriously concerning others? I wrote in a recent tweet, “I do not want to be someone’s tragedy.” I don’t. I could live with being a cautionary tale. But not someone’s tragedy.

      What do you think? I’m at a loss most of the time anymore.

      • I think that you take on a lot of responsibility which shouldn’t be yours when it comes to other people. Something so very invaluable that I’m learning from treatment so far is to own only what are my own emotions and actions – not to take other peoples experience on as my own – by finding that healthy distance. It means that I can still empathise and understand and support other people, but I don’t need to get caught up in it myself, nor do I need to feel responsible for changing things [mostly in them] that are beyond my control (e.g. from your response above: what might happen for the people who look up to you if you [re]lapse. That’s not actually your responsibility and you shouldn’t be burdened and weighed down by the thought that it is). And when you realise that, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

        It’s not an easy thing to learn to express yourself truly. I still don’t for similar reasons that you feel like you can’t. I live today based on the past, so I still fear that I will be judged or ridiculed or punished or invalidated or abandoned or neglected or abused if I do express myself. I even struggle in therapy, but I’m SO glad that I have the therapy space to practice in and to have a therapist – a person – that I feel is stable and strong enough to handle what I have to say and what I feel. It’s taken years to find the right person and it’s taken years to allow myself to try to trust, but I’m finally (SLOOOOOOWLY) getting there. Did you end up seeing the therapist like you said? (sorry if you already blogged about it somewhere, I didn’t seem to catch it.)

  4. Pingback: 30 Days of Truth | Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon

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