Monday, October 25

The Chance Compliment

Posted by Shelly Holder

So today I want to talk about a chance compliment I received back in spring that has really motivated me in the successive months.

I had submitted to a publication on campus that was a little out of my comfort zone, one that focused on expressions of female sexuality. I was unsure about contributing to something so risque, especially with my conservative background growing up. Still, there was some poking and prodding instinct to go ahead and risk it! So I sent in two poems and a personal essay, and was published.

The magazine was released a few days before I attended a job related BBQ. I was the new hire, and unfamiliar with most of the people around me. As I sat down with my burger and my beer, all out of the blue, a male co-worker I never inner-acted with before asked me "Did you write such and such piece?"

Me: (stunned) um, yes?

I really liked it, he replied.

I couldn't believe it. One, that he read the magazine. Two, he read my pieces, three, associated them with ME, and four, remembered long enough to bring it up. What kind of alternative reality was I in? Was that really non-alcoholic beer, or had something else been slipped in?

But as I continue down the road, I realize more and more how wonderful a compliment he paid me. Here I had taken a huge personal leap of faith into a world I was not familiar or comfortable in, and yet someone still found me not only competent but qualified.

If that co-worker had never said anything, I'm not sure that I would have had the courage to continue submitting to that particular magazine. I probably would have left it as a one time fling with the wild side. But because of what he did, I find that I have the strength to embrace this new world. And guess what? I love talking about female sexuality. Not because I'm some uber-radical, or because I represent the conservative side of the argument, but because it's a part of my humanity. Not some stereotype, but just simple human experience.

Because of him, I was excited to write a second personal essay for the upcoming fall 2010 issue, which has been accepted. In fact, I'm working on a third I hope to squeak in under deadline (18 days!). And I want to pursue these topics to other venues, other magazines. I want to see where this can take me. I want to see how I grow and learn and mature in life and in writing. I want to surprise myself. I want to challenge myself. And I don't want to stop because of some excuse like "that just isn't who I am." I don't know yet. I'm not defined. I'm not fixed.

All I know is, part of me has changed for good because of a chance compliment.

And if sometimes I write with him in mind, well, maybe that's not such a bad thing either.

Write Now:
What I'm listening to: "Sand in My Shoes" by Dido (Somehow it's so apropos...)
What I want most: the Kris Longknife book that comes out tomorrow! Squeeeeeeeee!